For those who lived through the era of the Communist blacklist, it was no joke. As many struggle through the current confusion of our days, the telling of A Jewish Joke, has meaning and relevance. In this production, Bernie Lutz (Phil Johnsnon) is a curmudgeonly Jewish comedy screenwriter from MGM, who comes up against the Communist blacklist in 1950’s Hollywood. A situation that many wrestled with, Bernie has to decide what’s more important – his friends, or his livelihood?
This was not an obvious choice for those who faced this dilemma. Armed with stories about the great era of Jewish humor, this poignant solo dramedy is about one American’s fight against one of the darkest moments of the mid-20th century.
1950’s Hollywood, at the height of the Communist Blacklist, when careers were ruined by a whisper, we meet irascible comedy screenwriter Bernie Lutz. Funny and lovable, Bernie has made his way up the ladder by being a spineless Hollywood sellout. Now, the night before a big red-carpet premiere that will make Bernie’s career, he has been asked to name names and give up his friend. He has one day to decide if he will accede to government demands and save his skin, or protect his friend and save his soul in the most serious decision of his life. One man’s journey through a historical reality as well as into the depths of his own soul is the heart of this multi-layered, compelling, and relevant production.
A Jewish Joke began in San Diego and has toured regionally with critically-acclaimed engagements in Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville, and New Haven, and was named “Best Drama” of the 2016 United Solo Festival, NYC.Directed by director, David Ellenstein, the creative team for A Jewish Joke: Aaron Rumley (production design), Jordyn Smiley and Peter Herman (costume designer), and Matt Lescault-Wood (sound design). Michael Joseph Ormond is Production Stage Manager. Rebecca Crigler is General Manager.
Marni Freedman (BFA, LMFT) is a produced, published, and award-winning writer. After graduating as an award-winning student from the USC School of Filmic Writing, Marni began her career with her play, “Two Goldsteins on Acid,” which was produced in Los Angeles. She worked as a script doctor for top film companies and worked as a script agent for the Mary Sue Seymour Agency. One of her plays was made into Marni Freedman (BFA, LMFT) is a produced, published, and award-winning writer. After graduating as an award-winning student from the USC School of Filmic Writing, Marni began her career with her play, “Two Goldsteins on Acid,” which was produced in Los Angeles. She worked as a script doctor for top film companies and worked as a script agent for the Mary Sue Seymour Agency. One of her plays was made into a film, “Playing Mona Lisa,” and was produced by Disney.
Phil Johnson is an actor, writer, director and producer, originally from Chicago. He is now a proud founding partner in The Roustabouts Theatre Co. of San Diego. His solo show, A Jewish Joke won Best Drama at the United Solo Fest NYC 2016. Co-written with Marni Freedman, originally directed by David Ellenstein, it premiered in San Diego in 2018 at The Roustabouts (‘Critics’ Choice’, San Diego Union-Tribune), and has been on tour nationally. Phil is a co-writer of She-Rantulas from Outer Space in 3D!, which performed at the NY Fringe Festival, and was published and produced in San Diego; and Withering Heights, also produced in San Diego. Phil was a winner of the San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Grant for his original comedy solo play of Hound of the Baskervilles.
A Jewish Joke will play the following performance schedule: Wed – Sat at 8pm & Sun at 3pm. There are additional performances on Tuesdays, March 12 & 26 at 7pm and Saturday, March 30 at 2pm. Tickets, NOW ON SALE, are priced at $37.25 -$47.25 and may be purchased through TeleCharge.com/212-239-6200 and in person at the Theatre Row box office (410 West 42nd Street) Mon-Sun from 12noon to 8pm (7pm on Sunday).
Photo Credit: Eric Woolsey unless otherwise noted.