Enough About Me, Let’s Talk about Jew!It’s been nearly forty years since Philip Roth caused a stir with ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’, Portnoy’s life as told through a monologue directed to his psychiatrist. Jeremie Bracka’s ‘Enough About Me … Let’s Talk About Jew’, currently on at the Bondi Pavilion, might be described as the stand up version. Bracka’s complaint however isn’t so much his sexuality per se but the plight of a good Jewish boy who wishes to hell he was anything but.

This production by director, Rachel Forgasz, is polished, well paced and very energetic. It’s also very funny. The routine pays tribute to the famed Lenny Bruce who has always been identified with the Roth style if not the character. The reason for the link is the ‘stream of consciousness’ delivery as well as its directness. ‘Enough About Me’ signals very early its deference to Bruce by opening with the musical tableau of ‘He’ll always have his mama to phone’ performed by Tomi Kalinski, a very ‘talented Buba’ indeed, who accompanies herself to the strains of Peter Allen’s signature tune. It’s rather a nice acknowledgement to an acknowledged master of stand up.

Arthur Miller described Bruce as ‘"intellectually underprivileged," whose talent derived from "a sort of daft, alienated infantilism," a puckish innocence’ (Edward Azlant). You could never make the same call about Bracka and he wouldn’t want you to. Even in the notes, he makes sure his audience is mindful of his academic prowess. It may be just a sop to Mrs Bracka’s wish, while suckling her ‘blessing’ at the breast, that even his ‘father doesn’t get to see’, that God should give her at least a lawyer after all she’s been through. It obviously echos David Bader’s classic ‘Is one Nobel Prize so much to ask from a child after all I've done?’ but all humour does in one way or another. It’s in the delivery and the context that this production excels. What it does say about Bracka’s performance however is that it isn’t Lenny Bruce, it’s his own.

While the voice is as much the instrument as it was for Bruce, in the obvious talent of a natural mimic the ‘evocative fidelity’ of Bruce’s impersonations are replaced with the caricatured rhythms of eastern European Jewry. The language and accents themselves are the basis for much of the Jewish New York humour popularised through the sixties, ‘klutz’, ‘nebbish’, ‘kibitz’, ‘schlock’, ‘schmuck’. It testifies to the aphorism that while you don’t have to be Jewish it helps. Indeed Bracka covers most of the bases in the Jewish repertoire from mother, ancestry, anti semitism, Nazis, Palestinians, religion, their own and others, money, food and family. They all receive attention through Bracka’s ascerbic retelling of his upbringing in the molly coddled environment of a Jewish home with a mother that only wants the best for her boy and is prepared to pay for it. ‘When you have money you deserve it.’ The boy’s only wish was to be more like Brian, Mrs O’Sullivan’s nephew who got to play football, eat bacon and receive treats at Christmas.

Bracka’s monologue is populated with a rich tapestry of caricatures as he slips effortlessly between Mamma, Pola, and Pappa, Marc, remonstrating on the inequity of the outcome of the Eurovision Song Contest, interspersed with ‘on line’ televised interviews of the German vote counting. Marc, having emigrated from France’s most southern province, Egypt, constantly threatens that world peace hangs on Bracka’s being  a good Jewish boy. Pola all but threatens self immolation if he doesn’t wear his lamb’s wool jacket out in the Melbourne weather of a 27 degree day. And like the all seeing eye of the Almighty there is the family. The knowledge that if he does disobey, someone is there to see and tell. Christianity on the other side of the road is such a temptation. ‘Had Moses received the ten commandments here instead of Sinai the first one would have been ‘Don’t worry’’ and the second like unto it, ‘Don’t worry, mate.’ 

But the aunts, Tola and Yola, those with the asymmetrically penciled eyebrows and on Marc’s side, Vivianne and the interloper from Budapest, Szuzie, carry much of the self deprecating humour that has come to typify the Jewish stand up. They are all superbly etched as Bracka folds himself from Tola, strutting like a farm yard cock, into Yola, chortling her barbed rejoinders and the double handed, chain smoking Hungarian mentor punctuating her diatribe with ‘fuck’. It would have been enough to get Lenny arrested all those years ago. But this isn’t Lenny Bruce. This does not ‘reach a point of clairvoyance where he was no longer a performer but rather a medium transmitting … from recall, fantasy, prophecy. … saying things he didn't plan to say, things that surprised, delighted him, cracked him up - as if he were a spectator at his own performance’ (Albert Goldman).

is a well rehearsed vehicle and while it shows all the signs of the counter point structures it has yet to find its way to full blown satire. Nevertheless it is very entertaining, very funny and in the end quite moving. You recall Bruce’s description of humour as " tragedy plus time". All humour has the same ancestry reflecting an intense and very private pain. There was something of this in Kalinski’s interlude after Bracka had run out on his Bar Mitzvah. Try as she would to play the music of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin she just couldn’t keep Waltzing Matilda out of it. Then again maybe she wasn’t supposed to. Ah, Vienna! Oh, Bondi! With the ever volatile political landscape to contend with it’s doubtful Pola will ever get her picture back. Don’t worry, Mama, they’ll always have New York and yes, your boy is keeping warm and will call, later.

Global Shtetl Productions presents
Enough About Me, Let’s Talk about Jew!

Venue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Drive Bondi Beach
Dates: 24 - 28 July 2007
Times: Tues-Sat 8pm
Tickets: $30 incl GST and soda
Bookings:  1300 552 130  or online at www.quicktix.com.au

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