DIAGNOSIS: JEW PAIN
nytheatre.com review by Jonathan Warman
I’m discovering that I’m a sucker for biographical or autobiographical
one-person shows. I think my fascination stems from an interest in
social and historical circumstances that I inherited from my father, a
history professor. Or maybe it comes from my Literature teacher mother’s
love of character studies. In any event, I was thoroughly captivated by
Michael Feldman’s autobiographical one-man show, Diagnosis: Jew Pain
which details his struggles with growing up bisexual in a conservative
Jewish Brooklyn family.
August 15, 2003
Like many other people, Michael thought that bisexuality didn’t exist, until confronted head-on with a growing attraction to men that did nothing to abate his sexual fantasies about women. As the title suggests, the primary subject of the show is the pain of dealing with the dysfunctional, traditional Jewish family. Coming to terms with his bisexuality, he also comes to terms with the expectations that weigh on him to be a "good Jewish son." Despite his own pain, Feldman still portrays his family with more compassion and wit than bile (that he reserves for a particularly unhelpful therapist). The show is a little rough around the edges—for example Feldman delivers one bit from the floor in a space where 90 per cent of the audience cannot see the floor—but Feldman’s honesty, humor, and charm win the day. His sexy, wiry, athletic, youthful stage presence certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
Feldman also includes two musical numbers in the piece, "I’m Your Sexuality" and a title song. Sung to lo-fi, hurdy-gurdy-like backing tracks, neither of these ditties is going to enter the Great American Songbook any time soon. They do, however, compress Feldman’s wry humor into tight little packages that have more distinctive character than any song I’ve heard from other shows in FringeNYC this year. Feldman’s not a first-class singer either, but that kinda helps to give them a very human, every-day, accessible quality. All in all, Diagnosis: Jew Pain is an entertaining, intimate glimpse into one young man’s unique story.