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THEATER REVIEW: “Old Jews Telling Jokes”

The news lately has been alternately scary, disgusting and head-shakingly nutty. At times like this, it’s good to forget all that and kick back with a quintet of “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” onstage through May 25 at the Lyceum Theatre.

It’s Borscht Belt night in this 90-minute jokefest touching on birth, courtship, marriage, death and those little annoyances in between (like doctors and rabbis).

“Old Jews Telling Jokes” is the brainchild of Daniel Okrent and Peter Gethers, who were inspired by the series of jokes on the website of the same name.

Many of the jokes are as old as some of the “old Jews” telling them; others have been updated; some are timeless; a few have at least updated references (such as a Scarlett Johannson mention). Most are typically Jewish, though lots have universal applicability.

Case in point: the son who tells his mom he’s going to introduce her to three beautiful young women, and she must guess which one he’s going to marry. Of course, she does it without hesitation. How did she know? “That’s the one I don’t like.”

And how could you fault any show that changes up the jokes with songs including Tom Lehrer’s “(I’m Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica”? And includes video clips of Alan King doing his “survived by his wife” bit?

There’s no fancy set here; just a couch, a couple of chairs, a video monitor advising the audience which stage of life they’re poking fun at now, and a keyboard whose ivories are tickled by G. Bartell from time to time.

Nothing to it. Just jokes. And a quintet of very talented performers to tell them.

Rhona Gold is in fine mother-in-law/grandma fettle.’’ Long, tall G. Bartell offers dry humor and keyboard facility. John Rosen’s Morty is a Jewish joke’s dream.

Local musical comedy favorite Allison Spratt Pearce raises the musical level of the show several notches with her clear-as-a-bell soprano, and shows joke-telling props as well. And Bryan Charles Feldman fills the singer/jokester mold just fine.

If the idea of lightening up a bit appeals, “Old Jews Telling Jokes” can give you a good start.

The details

“Old Jews Telling Jokes” plays through May 25 at the Lyceum Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, Downtown.

Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursay at 2 and 7 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 8 pm.

Tickets: (619) 544-1000 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.