From the Fringe: ‘Gimpel the Fool’

Fringe review: ‘Gimpel the Fool,’ Nephesh Theatre, Tel Aviv, Israel

By Elizabeth Maupin

The Nobel Prize-winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer gave us some great literature. He also gave musical-theater fans the story that led to the Barbra Streisand movie Yentl. And he gave us “Gimpel the Fool,” a short story steeped in Jewish beliefs about the schlemiel, the wise fool who is blessed by God.

Howard Rypp, artistic director of Tel Aviv’s Nephesh Theatre, plays Gimpel the Fool in the Orlando Fringe production, a solo show that tells the story from Gimpel’s point of view. Everybody treats Gimpel badly. He’s persuaded to marry a woman even though he has misgivings. He comes home repeatedly to find other men in his bed.

But Gimpel puts up with it all, and Rypp gets at his patience and his peculiar kind of wisdom. “Better to be a fool all your days than for one hour to be evil,” he says, and “You can’t go through life unscathed.”

Unfortunately, Rypp’s production, which he also adapted and directed, is so quiet-natured as to seem almost motionless: He tells the story, but his manner rarely changes. That, of course, is part of the point, but it makes for an undramatic 50 minutes. You’re left with a steadfast man and the haunting sound of klezmer in the air.

Remaining shows: 5:25 p.m. Tuesday 5/25, 8:25 p.m. Thursday 5/27, 5 p.m. Saturday 5/29, 5 p.m. Sunday 5/30. Yellow venue.

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