The shtetl is haunted. Many of the Lower East Side’s Jewish immigrants of the early 19th Century came from such small shtetls, villages in Eastern Europe full of superstition and also vibrant culture. These explode onto the stage in Peretz Hirschbein’s The (*) Inn, put on by Target Margin Theatre at Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Art Center.
Directed by David Herskovitz, the action follows a farming family who lives across from an abandoned inn. Strange lights play across the inn’s windows at night and spirits whisper from its walls. But the family accepts this with rather gleeful nonchalance until the father decides to wed his eldest daughter and as her dowry knock down the crumbling building and rebuild it as a way for her and her new husband to make income off travelers that will surely stop at the restored and ghost-free old country bed and breakfast.
Yet, his rebellious daughter has other plans. She is caught up in a wild and mutual obsession with her cousin, a strapping horse handler. And when the Inn’s spirits hi-jack her wedding, S&M, ghosts, roosters, and chases through the blackest night ensue.
Eerie, funny, sexy and scary, Hirschbein’s classic twists our modern perception of Yiddish drama. Instead of fusty, antiquated parables, the audience is sucked into seductive, modern drama with the added thrill of the nuances of Yiddish language. The star-crossed lovers threaten to beat each other, sever each other’s limbs and devour them with the most passionate tenderness.
Here is the language that traveled to the Lower East Side on the steerage deck of third class freighters and then slowly took hold as some of Manhattanites’ favorite expressions: Shmuck, Shlep, Oy vey!
As the playbill points out, The (*) Inn was an early example of experimental theater, a sensation in Vilna, in London and in a 1917 New York production. In 2013, it returns to the Lower East Side in all its supernatural glory. Starring Ugo Chukwu, Rachel Claire, Susan Hyon, Meg MacCary, Julia Sirna-Frest, J.H. Smith III and Sam T. West.
The (*) Inn will run through March 30. In addition, a post performance discussions with director David Herskovits and collaborators will be offered on March 28.