Moshe Feldstein, Icon of Self-Realization
nytheatre.com review by Michael Mraz
August 18, 2011
"Picture this scenario" says Moshe Feldstein, over and over, as he launches us into one surrealistic, richly descriptive scenario after another. The repeated phrase offers an apt description of what to expect of Alexander Nemser and Joseph Shragge's one-man show / spoken-word piece appearing in the New York International Fringe Festival. Moshe Feldstein: Icon of Self-Realization flies in so many directions, at such a fever-pace, that much of the time you can only sit back and absorb the imagery.
Performed by Nemser, as the title character, Moshe Feldstein takes the form of an inspirational, self-affirmation seminar. Nemser has great timing and control over his material as he fires phrases and scenarios like literary bullets. His performance is a great blend of character and poetic craft. His Feldstein projects an all-knowing, omniscient air that punctuates each ridiculous, nonsensical situation he describes with a dose of humor. As the pace and language build, what Feldstein says becomes less grounded in reality and more and more surreal. This is, in an odd way, simultaneously the piece's greatest strength and weakness.
The piece flows with a beautiful, almost hypnotic rhythm, but often the watcher gets so pulled into flow that we're not quite sure of the meaning of what we're hearing anymore. The words come so quickly and, so many times, don't seem to have any narrative connection to each other that it's hard to focus on what is truly being said. At times, the piece seems to project feelings of a negative outside world, a feeling of an oppressed individual, but otherwise I'm not quite sure what Moshe Feldstein was trying to get across to us, if anything at all. Though, Nemser's command over his language is a saving grace; in this respect, his commitment and skill make me think that there was something there hidden in the oasis of words.
At a running time of just over thirty minutes, Moshe Feldstein: Icon of Self-Realization is so lean that the confusion is most definitely tolerable, and at times it's quite an interesting ride carried by a very good individual performance. I just left feeling a little left behind by the show. I wanted to get something out of it, something profound, but I'm not sure that I did. Maybe that was the point of the show, to just let go and listen to the language—not everything has to say something—sometimes it's just about the feeling and emotion you get from watching. And while it didn't quite reach me, I can't say that another person wouldn't walk into Moshe Feldstein and find what I was looking for.