|TWO JEWS, TALKING|
Truth in advertising: There are actually six Jews yakking away – on everything from what heaven looks like to the “problems” with the Ten Commandments – in Ed Weinberger’s mostly inoffensive yet sometimes hilarious “Two Jews Talking,” rather oddly ensconced at the Theatre at St. Clements (located inside an Episcopal church).
We’ve got Bud and Lou, buddies taking a much-need pit stop during their 40-year journey to the Promised Land; Marty and Phil, total strangers who end up on the same bench at a present-day Long Island cemetery; and their portrayers, beloved TV veterans Hal Linden and Bernie Kopell, who prove (at ages 91 and 89) that age is truly nothing but a number!
Indeed, the strong voiced, still virile Linden (who won a Tony Award more than 50 years ago for “The Rothschilds”) consistently offers the same brand of lovable gruffness that endeared him to viewers of the hit sitcom “Barney Miller” as Lou and Phil. Both Lou and Phil (who could easily be Lou’s biological descendant) are not entirely convinced in the existence of God given their respective circumstances and are seemingly sure their pasts – even if it meant being a slave in Egypt -- was much happier than their present.
Meanwhile, Koppel – best known for his work on “The Love Boat” – is quietly effective as the more devout and seemingly content Bud and Marty. He’s essentially the straight man to Linden, although he does get deliver a couple of the show’s best zingers – perfectly.
Still, at a seemingly overlong 75 minutes (not helped by director Dan Wackerman’s too-leisurely pacing), the show needs more of those guffaw-getters to really succeed (especially as “Mr. Saturday Night,” which trades in similar humor, closes this weekend). And since Weinberger, a veteran of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Taxi,” certainly knows how to write a good gag; it’s a bit disappointing that he only shows off his skill intermittently.
When he does, he scores! For example, a section in the second act where Marty and Phil make up terrible epitaphs for various people buried nearby is really funny. And a running gag in which Phil tells Marty a series of jokes he supposedly hasn’t heard before lands consistent laughs. Weinberger is also to be commended for tackling some very up-to-date issues, including climate change, the acceptance of LGBTQ children, and Covid vaccines.
Let’s be honest, in New York, you can find two Jews talking almost anywhere – on a crosstown bus, a local diner or an Upper West Side bench. But there’s only one place to find Hal Linden and Bernie Koppel!
Visit the Site
Hal Linden and Bernie Kopell
Theatre at St Clement's
423 West 46th Street
Neighborhood: West 40s
New York, NY 10036