Off-Broadway Review: THE GETT (Rattlestick Theater)

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by Kevin Vavasseur on November 26, 2022

in Theater-New York

GETT IN THE MIDDLE

A Gett, as described in the program for The Gett, a new play written by Liba Vaynberg and currently running at Rattlestick Theater is described in part as, “A dated and witnessed document wherein the husband expresses his unqualified intention to divorce his wife and sever all ties with her under the supervision of the Rabbinical Council. Without a Gett, it doesn’t matter how many legal documents the couple has, or how long they’ve been separated, they are still married under Jewish law. Marriage is a union of souls and a Gett is the only way for these souls to be separated.”

Or as Ms. Vaynberg — who also plays main character Ida — kind of boils it down in her opening monologue to the audience (and I paraphrase), “It’s a bunch of old Jewish men mumbling while the woman stands there wondering what it is she’s getting.” This seems to be the story dynamic of The Gett — taking in scripture stories and rituals and then re-working them in a modern way while sticking to the ancient structure and references. This mix, however, never really gels and offers a sometimes funny but uneven production that may leave audience members wanting less scriptural accuracy and more Ida hilarity.

Liba Vaynberg and Ben Edelman

Vaynberg’s Ida is a funny, smart, likeable character offering a maybe too honest perspective on her life and experiences. Vaynberg is also a very good writer, creating clever dialogue that can be humorous at one turn and moving the next. Her bittersweet listing of all the contradictory things she wants in life, as she sits across from her happily married divorce lawyer, is a highlight. But it’s the seven day creation of the world structure, in this case the seven days it takes to create Ida, that gets confusing and, unless one is familiar with the referenced sacred texts, takes away from an entertaining and insightful story.

In the first scene, Ida meets Baal (an effective if one-note Ben Edelman) when they get stuck on an elevator. In the next scene, Ida is with her divorce lawyer (a solid and versatile Luis Vega). In the next, she’s dating an English guy (Vega again) who pales in comparison to Baal. In another, Baal is possessively and abusively in her head, demanding she return to him. In another scene, she’s with yet another boyfriend (Vega again) who seems to be The One until a religious difference causes a major rift. Then she’s in space, I guess, with Baal, getting very philosophical. Then she and Baal are in a Rabbi’s office (Rabbi Vega, I presume) getting the actual Gett. Once they get the Gett, they get back in the same elevator where they first got each other. And on the seventh day, she rested.

Luis Vega

Interspersed between all this getting is a wonderful turn by Jennifer Westfeldt as Ida’s Jewish, psychiatrist mother. Mostly a series of phone calls from Mom to Ida, Westfeldt offers an intelligent, caring, funny, overbearing, slightly insensitive mother character. The roots of the Jewish Mother trope are evident but due to Westfeldt’s lovely performance and Vaynberg’s deft writing in these speeches, this Jewish mother is a human being, not tired schtick.

Direction by Daniella Topol is serviceable but could have done more to help clarify the religious trajectory mixed in with the secular one. Ben Edelman does some fun sleight of hand magic as part of his Baal character. Misha Kachman’s multi-use set makes clever use of the small stage space and Johanna Pan’s costumes were well suited to each character.

Jennifer Westfeldt

The Gett by Liba Vayenberg is an ambitious undertaking combining ancient Jewish ritual, scriptural mythology and a contemporary, young, Jewish woman’s search for life and love. While there are funny and insightful moments throughout, ultimately the combination doesn’t quite work at this point and that’s unfortunate. Vayenberg is clearly a smart, funny and talented writer/performer with a strong voice and perspective. Here’s hoping she’ll soon get another chance to show the world what she’s got.

photos courtesy of Rattlestick Theater

The Gett
Rattlestick Theater, 224 Waverly Place
ends on December 11, 2022
for tickets, visit Rattlestick

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