Last Friday I did one of the loopier things in my college career. I took out an emergency loan for $400 and jetted off to the Big Apple with a boy I’d only known for a few weeks. I met him at a party, and we ran off to New York for the weekend. I took being young by the balls and sort of flew with it. In doing this, I missed two days of school as well as a day of work. Reckless? Yeah. Something I regret? No. Anyway, it was my first opportunity to see a Broadway play – a little ditty called “Jewtopia.”

Jess Cox

“Jewtopia” is a play about a Catholic named Chis O’Connell (played by Bryan Fogel) who decides that he no longer wants to make any decisions for himself, and therefore wants to marry a Jewish woman (under the presumption that a Jewish woman will make the rest of his decisions for him). O’Connell pairs with his friend, a Jew named Adam Lipschitz (played by Sam Wolfson), to accomplish this goal. The two forge what seems to be a mutually beneficial relationship, with O’Connell helping Lipschitz find a Jewish girl on the Internet in exchange for Lipschitz letting him into the “Jewish World.”

The acting was excellent, and even with a non-practicing but culturally Jewish mother, I feel like I got most of the jokes. It was definitely the best play I’ve ever been to, and through comedy, it delved into a sticky web of issues including Jewish intermarriage, religious relativism and Jewish history.

I laughed out loud when the Jewish mother demands that her son just “kill her” and hands him the butter knife. This overdramatization, which I personally find is common among Jewish moms (my mom has asked me the same question multiple times) hit the nail on the head for me.

In addition to the relevant cultural observations, the comparisons that Lipschitz and his Mongolian fiance find between Buddhism and Judaism was refreshing.

There is a great deal of controversy associated with this play, too. Lipschitz marries a non-Jew, meaning his children will not be Jewish. This is a huge slap to the Jewish culture, and intermarriage in general is something my mom got disowned for 22 years ago. Nevertheless, it is a play that makes you think.

Simultaneously, it makes you analyze while entertaining you. And unfortunately for those of us in Ann Arbor, it is yet another Broadway play that will never come here.

If University students want to see a play off Broadway, they have to travel all the way to Detroit to go to either the Fisher Theater or Masonic Temple. Both places are, in student speak anyway, pretty far away. If you don’t have a car it’s almost impossible. And for the most part, the school does not offer transportation to these cultural venues.

I’m not going to bore you by telling you about Michigan’s lack of public transportation in general (anywhere outside of Ann Arbor is pretty much a black hole for those without cars). And I’m pretty sure we have the Big Three thanks for that one – holla.

But seriously, as an Arts editor who probably sees more than the average student in the way of school theater productions, don’t get me wrong, I definitely appreciate them. The School of Music seriously rocked out “Romeo and Juliet” for me, and I adore Basement Arts productions.

But still, there is something to be said for professional venues. And I feel that our lack of off-Broadway plays is something that should be remedied.

With a strong population of more than 24,000 undergraduate students, there is no reason why we can’t either offer mass transportation to Detroit to see these plays or bring them to Ann Arbor. This city is the cultural mecca of Michigan; however, it needs to one-up itself to give students the theatrical experiences they deserve.

Now I understand we’re never going to be New York. “Victoria,” you’re probably thinking, “if this is such an issue for you, why not transfer to New York University. Stop your bitching and call it a day.”

All right, point taken. Main Street is no 42nd Street and will never be. But still, there is no reason why Ann Arbor cannot attract more off-Broadway plays or more professional theater groups in general.

Ann Arbor is a supposedly cultural town, but there seems to be an unbalanced emphasis on professional music rather than theatre here. Our music is world-renowned, but our theater is only locally renowned. If the city could attract even one or two off-Broadway plays a year, it would be really beneficial to the students at this University.

How many students do you know who are from some bumblefuck town in Michigan? Somewhere that you can hardly pronounce?

Well, those students deserve as much as anyone else to see real theater. Who knows. This may be the only opportunity some people have to experience real culture.

And hell, if Ann Arbor can’t do it, let the University offer some type of transportation so that students, especially those previously mentioned, can experience excellence in professional theater, so that each and every student who wants to be enriched through the theater can do so.

 

– Victoria loves plays. Tell her how much you love Broadway musicals at victoros@umich.edu.

 

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