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  YIDDISH THEATRE 101 > THE YIDDISH PLAYS > THE PLAY IN HISTORY  >  IN-LAWS

 

"IN-LAWS"

(Mekhutonim)

by Chone Gottesfeld

 

 

Introductory Note. -- In this hilarious play, the author -- a well-known Yiddish humorist and playwright of New York -- deftly depicts the more ludicrous aspects of party strife in the Ghetto, -- that paradise of parties, big and little, each with its own solution for the ills of Israel and mankind. Here fundamentalists war against modernists, nationalistic Zionists against cosmopolitan Socialists, and Communists against all the others. Here too we find in close proximity such diverse types as Moishe Blitz, the Communist lecturer; Moishe Lapidus, the ultra-Orthodox preacher; Morris Fox, the politician, professional Jew and busybody; Dr. Fink, the mild-mannered Socialist; and queerest, most pathetic, and most human of all, Mr. Ziss, -- the impecunious landlord who prevails upon the Communists to take him into their ranks, only to be expelled soon after for clinging to such a reactionary and counter-revolutionary practice as having his newborn son circumcised. This multiplicity of parties and diversity of types affords rich food for the comic muse of our author, who, however, tempers his irony with good humor.

The word "mekhutonim" signifies kinsmen by marriage. As popularly employed, it designates the nearest relatives of a young man and a young woman from the moment the negotiations for their marriage are set in motion.

Act One. -- Ferdinand, the only son of Moissay and Anyuta Blitz, and Sarah, the only daughter of Moishe and Bayleh Lapidus, are in love, -- much to the regret of the girl Communist Rose, who is herself in love with Ferdinand. Unlike his Communist father, who would abolish all nations, beginning with the Jews, Ferdinand is a Jewish nationalist. This is a great vexation to his father, who, although he boasts of having refused to walk in the ways of his father, would like Ferdinand  to follow the ways of Moissay Blitz. When the curtain goes up, father and son are away, and only Anyuta is at home. Blitz is engaged in a public debate with spokesmen of other parties, while Ferdinand is out with Sarah. Bayleh, Sarah's mother, visits Anyuta and informs her that her husband intends to call on Blitz, as Mr. and Mrs. Lapidus are soon going to settle in Palestine and would like to see their daughter married before they leave. Anyuta tells her that she and her husband are likewise anxious to see their son married soon, and for a similar reason: Mr. and Mrs. Blitz are going to settle in Birobidzhan, -- the Siberian province where the Communists are planning to set up a Jewish Republic. Ferdinand and Sarah come in, and soon the mothers discreetly withdraw to another room. From the conversation of he young sweethearts, it becomes evident that the chief obstacle to their marriage is that Ferdinand's father is opposed to a religious wedding, while any other wedding is unthinkable to Sarah's orthodox parents. Blitz, accompanied by a group of admiring followers, returns from the debate, which they pronounce a great Communist victory. Mr. Ziss, Blitz's landlord, enters timidly and asks, not for the rent which is long overdue, but to be taken into the Communist party, to whose platform he has become converted after listening to Blitz's lectures and losing all his money in Wall Street. Reluctantly, and over the objections of his more fanatical followers, Blitz hands Ziss a membership application blank to fill out. Moishe Lapidus, Sarah's father, arrives and like the professional preacher that he is, starts to spout pious platitudes. His remarks are greeted with jeers by the irreverent Communists. In the end he berates them soundly and withdraws with his wife -- and daughter.

Act Two. -- Ferdinand and Sarah, having made up and mollified her parents, are about to be married. As the curtain goes up, Ferdinand and his mother are dressing for the wedding, which is to be solemnized religiously tonight in a hall across the street. Blitz, deaf to the please of his wife and son, refuses to go to the wedding, and instead busies himself with preparations for the trial of Comrade Ziss, who is to be tried this evening for backsliding to bourgeois ways, in that he has had his newborn son circumcised. The trial is interrupted by the arrival of Moishe Lapidus, who, in his clumsy pietistic way, vainly pleads with Blitz to come to the wedding. Of the Communists present, only the backsliding Ziss sympathizes with Lapidus. One of the wedding guests, the politician Morris Fox, growing impatient over the delay, rushes in and starts to bully Blitz to come to the wedding, making dire threats in case he refuses. The Communists only laugh at him and his threats. Enraged, Fox vows that he will make Blitz attend the weeding, then rushes out. The bride and bridegroom now come to plead with Blitz. When Sarah begs him not to attend the ceremony, but only to appear in the hall and show himself to the guests, he softens and promises to do it.

Act Three. -- The friends of Moissay and Anyuta Blitz and those of Moishe and Bayleh Lapidus are tendering them farewell banquets on the eve of their departure for Birobidzhan and Palestine, respectively. The banquets are held in adjoining rooms of the same hall across the street from the Blitzes. When the curtain rises, the guests of honor have not yet arrived, and only the adherents of the two factions are present in their respective banquet rooms. From their conversation it appears that Ferdinand and Sarah are not yet married. For, after Moissay Blitz reluctantly consented to appear at the wedding hall and merely show himself to the guests, and when in fat he and his followers were already on the way to the hall, the party was met by Morris Fox and a cordon of police in an attempt to make good the politician's thread that he would force Blitz to attend his son's wedding. Blitz and his partisans, as well as Ferdinand, were indignant at this display of force, and the wedding was called off. While waiting for Blitz and Lapidus to arrive, both groups of banqueters mark time. Dr. Fink comes to bid farewell to his old friend Blitz, whose acquaintance he made when both were active in the Socialist Party, to which Dr. Fink still belongs. In the absence of Blitz, the others mistake Dr. Fink for an out-of-town Communist. But when he tells them that he is a Socialist, they are indignant at the intruder. He is challenged to defend his views but given no chance to speak. The mild-mannered Socialist is no match for these militant Communists, and he is forced to leave without seeing his friend. his departure is hailed as another Communist victory. The guests of honor finally arrive at their respective banquet rooms. The ostracized Ziss appears at both parties and winds up by urging the Communists to be tolerant to the teachings of orthodox Judaism, and the orthodox -- to work for the Social Revolution! Ferdinand and Sarah also call on their respective parents and announce that they have been married, assuring Blitz that theirs was a civil wedding, and Lapidus that is was a religious one. Thus both sides are satisfied, and the real truth is known only to Ferdinand and Sarah. Soon speechmaking begins. The ensuing scene is one of delicious irony. For in both rooms, separated by a thin wall, almost identical speeches are delivered, save that in one they speak of the approaching Social Revolution that is to redeem mankind, and in the other of the coming of the Messiah who will make real the dreams and ideals of the ancient prophets of Israel.


 



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