Review by Danny Gaisin
What is the wish that every ‘Miss America’ contestant personally claims? Think the hilarious scene in ‘Miss Congeniality’ where the afterthought is – World Peace! Remember this factoid when you see BINBROOK LITTLE THEATRE’s comedy – The Day They Kidnapped the Pope. Playwright Joao Bethencourt’s plot premise is that the pontiff on a Vatican visit to NYC evades his limo and takes a cab driven by a Jewish cabbie from Brooklyn. ‘Sam Leibowitz’ aka Brad Fortman brings him across the Brooklyn Bridge and decides to keep him in the Leibowitz pantry and hold him for ransom. And the value of said ransom demand – see this article’s opening sentences.
Fortman is a continual hoot and along with Kimberly Jonasson as his wife Sara both seem comfortable in their stereotyping Yiddishkeit*. He’s at ease wearing his yarmulke, and she naturally serves Doug Caldwell’s Pope Albert IV some chicken soup (i.e. Jewish Penicillin). The two scene sealers are youngsters Thomas Saker as son ‘Irving’ and Madeline Sadai as his sister ‘Miriam’. Saker was terrific in last season’s “Journey’s End” and he is the perfect post-Bar Mitzvah teenager; but without the angst. Sadai possesses the ability to exhibit perfect comfort and poise while on stage and has an almost instinctive sense of timing. Hopefully, she’ll consider a thespian career.
‘Albert’s Italian accent is a little off but Caldwell’s facility with facial expression is emphasis enough to drollishly miss out on the numerous ironic lines foisted on him. Every mention of prayer or God is coupled with “You have to (believe, agree, trust etc.) it’s your job! Playing the support roles are avaricious cousin Rabbi Meyer (Mark Rogers) and Adam Harrison who portrays the totally un- sycophantic Cardinal O’Hara. I can’t imagine any prince of the Catholic Church challenging the edicts of a pontiff. However, this is theatre, not real life.
Director Shirley Marshall utilizes a rear window that reproduces the day’s TV so that the audience can follow what is being shown on the news, and thus the world situation the main event has instigated. Timing and synchronization work perfectly.
The play is uneven, almost as if there were two Bethencourts. One writing an albeit unrealistic but hilarious first act; so funny that this scribe forgot to jot down notes; and a post-intermission Bethencourt whose plot-line deteriorates to a totally hokey finale. As quite probably the only Jewish members of the audience, our laughs and appreciation of some of the subtleties of a household familiar to both our and our respective parents was to be expected. TDTKTP will be on stage at Binbrook Little Theatre until Nov. 2nd. It’s fun; it’s preposterous; it’s well-directed and stage-managed…in other words enjoyable theatre. And you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate it.
*Yiddishkeit: – a compendium of representational idiosyncrasies and traditions of Jewish life