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Michael Nathanson


by Michelle Palansky, April 5, 2011

Have you ever spent an uncomfortable weekend at the cottage with your family? Multiply that experience by 100 and you approach Michael Nathanson’s premise for his new comedy, One of Ours.

The situation is simple. Simon and his non-Jewish girlfriend Lily Chill join Simon’s brother Mark and his wife Janice for a weekend at their cottage.

“Lily Chill,” queries Janice. “My hand to God could you get more goyishe?”

Mark, despicably and definitively played by Adrian Marchuk, is the successful and manipulative younger brother. Aviva Hoffman plays Janice, the simultaneously spoiled and spurned wife. Audiences may remember Hoffman from her starring role as Peter Pan at Rainbow Stage. Dov Mickelson as Simon is a sensitive but loveable mess and Lily, ably performed by local actor Gwendolyn Collins, is an outspoken, free-spirit. The claustrophobia of cabin life forces these very different characters to deal with each other.

Simon enters the cabin, sees his brother, and pauses.

SIMON: “Should we hug?”
MARK: “Why?”

Why should we love each other? What is holding us together? - those questions are central to One of Ours. Is the biological fact of being a family enough to keep people together? Can a person who comes from an entirely different way of life be more of a family to you than your own sibling? Nathanson, through his play, wrestles with the notion that blood is thicker than water.

The set is austere: white floor, white futon, and a clear coffee table. The design emphasizes the wealth of the Jacob family; only a very rich household would live in such a stark space. The set highlights the lack of genuine warmth in this family. There are no knickknacks or keepsakes – everything is for show. The minimalism of the design forced the actors to fill out the stage space with tension and conflict, and they did so admirably.

It is easy to forget that this is a first run of the show. The action was tight, the dialogue came fast, and the pacing was really excellent.

Nathanson excels at quick, witty dialogue. He carried the audience along on a stream of steady quips and enough Yiddish to make you wish you had gone to Peretz shul to learn the mama loshen.

The audience, 90 strong on the second night, laughed through out and seemed spellbound by the final moments of the play’s dramatic conclusion.

Audience goers should be aware that there is brief nudity and a language warning.
Michael Nathanson’s comedy, One of Ours, runs from April 1 to April 10 at the Berney Theatre. Tickets are $28 and the show runs two hours with a 15 minute intermission.

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