proper understanding of this play,
the spectator must bear in mind that
it was written nearly half-a-century
ago, when the Haskalah movement
among the Jews of Eastern Europe--a
movement for secular education and
modern views of live--was at its
height and a fierce battle was
raging between the Modernists and
Practically all of the Jewish
writers were champions of the new
order, and they never tired of
lashing and deriding their
opponents. The particular butt of
their ridicule was the fanatical
Hassid with his uncouth dress and
superstitious beliefs who, in
selecting a husband for his
daughter, took into consideration
not her happiness, but the groom's
Abraham Goldfaden--poet, composer,
actor, playwright, and father of the
Yiddish stage--was one of the
leaders of the Haskalah movement,
and the present play deals with the
struggle between the old and the
Program cover for "The Two
Town Lunatic--an important institution in every
Jewish community in Eastern Europe--is
disporting himself in the street with an
improvised drum and singing a song whose burden
is that if Kooneylemel is fit to marry, why not
Scene 2-- A number
of Hasidim are partaking at R' Pinchas' (Mark
Schweid) house of the feast that marks the
passing of the Sabbath. They are interrupted by
the arrival of Hotzmakh (Yudel Dubinsky)--
peddler, marriage broker, man about town, and
shrewd fool, a Figaro of the Mosaic
Persuasion--who offers them his wares. Finding
no customers, he departs, followed presently by
most of the guests, who on leaving express the
hope that Chayele'Caroline (Bertha Kasten), the
hosts' only child, may soon be a bride. R'
Pinchas would gladly see his daughter married,
provided she marries a Hassid of good family.
Unfortunately she prefers a modern fellow. Worse
yet, his wife Rivkah (Bina Abramowitz) is on
their daughter's side and has actually spoiled
her by engaging for her tutor a godless student
Max (Wolf Goldfaden). Rivkah joins him and
insists that their daughter must marry only for
Scene 3-- Kalman
(Julius Adler), a marriage broker, tells R'
Pichas of a wonderful young man for his
daughter--the pious Koonylemmel (Maurice
Schwartz), son of R' Sholom of Shaharayevka
(Izidor Casher), prominent merchant and
community leader. He admits the young man has
some shortcomings--he is blind in one eye, halts
and stammers--but he ingeniously minimizes them,
the main thing being piety and pedigree. R'
Pinchas agres and offers 1,000 rubles as dowry.
They arrange to have Kooneylemel sto first at
Kalman's house, where R' Pinchas can come to see
him by himself.
Scene 4-- Rivkah
sends her daughter, who has changed her name
from Chayele to Caroline, for a walk in the
park, and engages in another battle of word with
Scene 5-- Max,
Caroline's tutor and lover, is in the park
feeling blue because R' Pinchas no longer
permits him to teach is daughter. His student
friends console him. Caroline arrives and tells
him about the Kooneylemel match. It turns out
that Kooneylemel is his cousin by marriage,
being the stepson of Max's uncle. Max outlines
his plan for outwitting her father by disguising
(lt., as Max),
and Maurice Schwartz as Kooneylemel.
bids his all too marriageable daughter Leba
(Leah Meltzer) prepare the house and set the
table for Kooneylemel, who is expected any
minute. Leba bemoans her fate: her father gets
husbands for every girl, but not for her. Kalman
promises to find her a husband with the
commission he will get from R' Pinchas.
Scene 2-- Max
arrives, disguised as Kooneylemel. Leba remarks
in an aside that R' Pinchas is welcome to his
bargain. Kalman departs, and Max, throwing off
his mask, kneels before Leba and avows his love
for her, saying he disguised himself in order to
be able to see her. Leba is ready to elope at
once with the handsome young man, but Max tells
her to wait as he must go away for the time
Scene 3-- R'
Sholom, at heart a modernist, is told by the
Hasidim that they will again elect him head of
the community. Bidding them leave him, he reads
Kalman's letter, promising a match between his
stepson and R' Pinchas' daughter. The thing
seems to him absurd, but he is glad to get rid
of Kooneylemel. He tells Kooneylemel about it,
but the letter is incredulous. He gives him the
letter and bides him set out the next day for
Odessa, where he will join him later.
Procession of the Sacred Scrolls. The
Hasidim are escorting the newly elected
President to the Synagogue, followed by
Kooneylemel and his school companions carrying
Scene 1-- R'
Pinchas informs his wife that he has dispatched
Hotzmach to Shaharayevka in order to bring
Kooneylemel directly to their house, so as to
avoid gossip in case they reject the young man.
He begs her not to influence their daughter
against the match, promising that he will not
force her to marry against her will. Hotzmach
enters and reports the arrival of Kooneylemel.
He is enjoined to keep the matter secret,
especially from Kalman.
Scene 2-- R'
Pinchas tells his daughter about the match and
is elated to find her favorably disposed.
Kooneylemel arrives at R' Pinchas'. He rebukes
Caroline for her godlessness in bearing an
un-Jewish name, and again for not believing in
ghosts. When Reb' Pinchas and Rivkah withdraw,
he protests against being left alone with a
woman. Caroline, who believes it is her lover
Max, compliments him on his clever disguise and
tells him to be his natural self now they are
alone. Kooneylemel does not understand, and
Caroline is nonplussed. Finally she tries to
kiss him, and he flees in terror, leaving her
puzzled and peeved.
Scene 4-- R'
Pinchas realizes his mistake and wrings his
hands in despair, to the accompaniment of his
wife's taunts. To his and her surprise, Caroline
insists on having Kooneylemel. R' Pinchas
concludes that Kooneylemel must be one of the
Thirty-Six Just Men who go around in disguise,
and who can perform miracles. Caroline confirms
his belief by saying that when she tried to kiss
Kooneylemel, he vanished in the air.
Scene 5-- Max
arrives disguished as Kooneylemel and begs to be
left alone with Caroline. "I could swear it is
another man," says R' Pinchas, "what a miracle!"
When the lovers are left alone, Caroline remains
aloof and cold to Max. The situation is soon
cleared up, and the lovers are reconciled. She
tells him her father takes him for one of the
"Thirty-Six." That gives Max and idea, and he
jots down a note for her to give to his
Kooneylemel enters and surprises them in their
act of embracing. Max accuses him of being an
imposter, trying to cheat R' Pinchas out of
1,000 rubles. Kooneylemel produces Kalman's
letter and is promptly denounced as a forger.
Max threatens to turn him over to the police
unless he leaves town, and Kooneylemel promises
to go away at once.
Scene 7-- Hearing
R' Pinchas' footsteps, Max pretends to be
engrossed in study, and then calls upon the
spirits of his ancestors, particularly that of
his great-grandfather R' Kloynimis, to appear
and tell him whether it is heaven's will that he
marry R' Pinchas' daughter. The awe-stricken R'
Pinchas is now certain the young man is one of
the "Thirty-Six" and readily agrees to give his
daughter in marriage to so holy a man. The
spirits then appear amid thunder and lightning
and approve the match.
Scene 1-- The
engagement party at R' Pinchas'. Max urges
haste, but R' Pinchas insists on waiting for the
arrival of R' Sholom before solemnizing the
Kooneylemel bursts in, triumphantly claiming to
be the one and only Kooneylemel, but is spurned
by R' Pinchas as a rank imposter.
Scene 3-- Kalman
rushes in and rebukes Kooneylemel for having run
away, and R' Pinchas for having lured the young
man away and arranged the engagement without the
marriage broker's knowledge. R' Pinchas explains
that he had the young man come directly to his
house. Kalman insists that Kooneylemel first
stopped at his house, which the latter denies.
Thereupon both Kalman and R' Pinchas denounce
him as an imposter.
Scene 4-- Just
then Leba appears and accuses him of having made
love to her and then runs away. Kooneylemel
swears he does not know her, and she threatens
to expose him by tearing off his false beard,
whereupon he flees in terror.
Scene 5-- R'
Sholom finally arrives and identifies his
stepson, to the utter confusion of R' Pinchas.
Seeing in all this his nephew Max's hand, the
new arrival enlightens R' Pinchas and urges him
to give up his foolish Hasidic notions. Max
arrives stylishly dressed and clears up
everything. By way of atonement to Leba for
having made her believe he loved her, he offers
to give her half of his dowry, provided she
agrees to marry Kooneylemel. Thereupon the
betrothal of Max and Caroline takes place. To
enlighten R' Pinchas still more, Max causes the
spirits of his ancestors to appear again. The
spirits turn out to be students disguised as
ghosts--all, that is, except that of R'
Kloynimis, which is impersonated by Hotzmakh,
Max's chief accomplice.