The Black-Jew Dialogues, presented by Mabel and Esther Productions, is first and foremost an educational piece. Like most productions of its kind, it attempts to straddle the line between entertaining and informative. Facts, figures and a bit of fun. Unfortunately, in this case, there was a bit too much of the former and a lack of the latter.
The play is the brainchild of veteran performers Ron Jones (“The Black”) and Larry Jay Tisch (“The Jew”). It grew from a three-day road trip during which the two discussed in detail the histories of their races, their cultural similarities and differences and the true nature of prejudice. What started off as an inquisitive discussion between two friends slowly transformed into a lighthearted thought-piece on race relations and stereotypes.
Ron Jones and Andy Schlossberg (a last-minute replacement for Tisch) are game performers, managing to deliver wordy chunks of history with relative ease. Both are at their best when they ditched the textbooks in favor of theatrics.
One particular scene, where the two transform into sassy grandmothers, provides a funny and yet all-too-true look at the deep-rooted prejudices that inform our daily lives. A scene involving puppets and a few controversial racial slurs reminds the audience that beneath the laughter, language can still hurt.
The Black-Jew Dialogues
by Larry Jay Tish and Ron Jones
at Goethe Institut – Main Stage
812 7th Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
For anyone who took a social studies class in elementary school, the subject matter is hardly new. The show’s ambitious social mission—to reunite people across color lines—make it an ideal production for school assemblies and diversity workshops. But perhaps because of that, the show just can’t seem to shake that preachy undercurrent. The few moments of solemnity and reflection seem intentionally forced, and neither actor seems quite as comfortable playing it straight.
Though noble in its intentions, The Black-Jew Diaologues seems more like a soliloquy.