LOVE IN THE CATSKILLS, Midwest Jewish Theater, at the Mayer Kaplan Jewish Community Center. The Catskills resorts in upstate New York loom large in the history of American entertainment. Singers, musicians, and comics all cut their teeth there, among them Mickey Katz, Woody Allen, Alan King, even Lenny Bruce. American pop culture of the 40s, 50s, and 60s would have been very different without the Catskills resorts incubating young talent.
But you'd never know the Catskills were anything but a bunch of hills from this flat, amateurish, humorless musical comedy. If anything, Anita and Stan Turtletaub and Tracy Friend work hard to keep their play in historical limbo. Supposedly set in the 90s, the work features nice Jewish boys and girls who dress and act just like young people of our parents' or even grandparents' generation. The big Saturday-evening social event is a calypso night!
Even more damaging is the play's minimal humor and honest sentiment. There isn't even enough schmaltz (a Catskills specialty) to make us care about the routine romantic plot: one of God's more hapless angels earns his wings by uniting young lovers at a Catskills singles weekend (as if you needed an angel to unite attractive young people). And the music--don't get me started. Let's just say that the trite score would have sounded old-fashioned 30 years ago. Mama, they promised us the Catskills, but they gave us Skokie instead.