Actor and performer Charlie Varon has a definite propensity when it comes to storytelling: a laidback and welcoming presence, a passionate mind full of churning ideas, and what a voice! Spanning mellow depths to squeaking highs and with diction to put Henry Higgins to shame, his rich range and control are made to bring classical works of literature to vibrant life.
Working with his longtime collaborator, director David Ford, Varon has taken one of his own short stories and turned it into a compact and entertaining evening with Feisty Old Jew.
The plot follows the adventures of Bernie, an 83 year-old living in a rather ritzy retirement community in the San Francisco Bay area. He’s a self-made man who loves the finer things in life that inspired his generation: nice suits, nice manners, biting wit.
Feisty Old Jew
by Carlie Varon
at Caos on F
923 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Details and tickets
It is an interesting one-man show concept that Varon explores, but as a theatrical event it feels a little out of place. Adapting works of fiction, especially short stories, to the stage is a tricky endeavor since the form is based heavily in narrative exposition. It works well in your imagination as a reader, but moving that to the stage requires some alchemy to bring it into an active and engaging piece of theater.
Varon has plenty of talent to carry the number of roles he plays, but the piece strives hard to find that spark to bring it to life. Presented in the intimate Chaos on F Street venue, the show unfortunately doesn’t benefit from the lack of lighting and tech equipment that could help make the performance more theatrical in nature.
Varon has definitely hit on an interesting and wry character with the octogenarian Bernie, and the audience clearly found him charmingly relatable as his begrudging nature gave way to the character’s natural intelligence and feisty worldliness. We all have, or hope to have, a character like Bernie in our lives, and his story is full of great humor and thoughtful observations on the fast-paced world we live in today. With some further development and small fixes, this new work of Varon’s could be quite a gem.