Theater Review: JUST FOR US (Alex Edelman at the Calderwood Pavilion and Colonial Theatre in Boston)

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by Lynne Weiss on April 13, 2023

in Theater-Boston,Theater-Regional


If you’re looking for great night of humor about white supremacy and anti-Semitism (and who isn’t?), this is the show for you. Alex Edelman, Boston-born and -bred but now located in New York, brings his one-man show to the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. It has been extended for a night at the much larger Colonial Theatre, so that gives you an idea of what a sensation it is. The theater was filled on opening night. My only complaint? The guy behind me was laughing so loudly that I missed some of the lines.

Alex Edelman. Photo by Emilio Madrid.

Edelman starts us off easy, with some animal jokes. (I won’t give away the punch lines, but I offer the tease that he confesses to have spent $800 learning ASL on the internet during the pandemic to pull off one of these riffs.) From there we find out about the ways he creatively takes on anti-Semites on the internet: I’ll tell you that he generates a twitter list for those who lob anti-Semitic attacks at him, but why tell you what he names that list? I don’t deserve the laughs; this man does.

Eventually this effort to singlehandedly take on these anti-Semites lands him in a room in Queens where a group of white supremacists are holding a meeting. In the course of depicting this event (which Edelman confesses he is terrified to enter), we learn much about his Orthodox Jewish upbringing in Boston, including a hilarious account of his introduction to his Jewish identity at the age of seven when barred from eating a slice of pepperoni pizza at a kid’s birthday party, and the year his family celebrated Christmas in order to live out their Jewish values of empathy. We sweat it out with Edelman in that Queens apartment, waiting for the revelation of his identity, and the result, which is an honest self-examination of his goals in attending such a meeting. What Edelman takes away from the experience will surprise and delight you.

Alex Edelman. Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Edelman is in constant motion in the course of the show, his only set four stools that at various times represent a circle of seventeen white supremacists, his sofa, and a luge sled (!). As for the title: I had a brief conversation with someone before the show who wondered, with dismay, whether the title meant that the show was just for Jews. The meaning of the title unfolds and expands in the course of the show; I assure you that it’s also for non-Jews. To help, Edelman skillfully explains elements of Orthodox culture that might be unfamiliar to some.

Edelman began writing Just For Us in 2018, working and polishing it at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in Australia, the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland, and at the Soho Theatre in London. Directed by Adam Brace and mentored by one-man comic phenom Mike Birbiglia, the show heads for Broadway’s Hudson Theater in June.

Just For Us
presented by Ambassador Theatre Group
Roberts Studio Theatre at the Huntington Calderwood/BCA
527 Tremont St. in Boston
ends on April 23, 2023
for tickets, visit Boston Theatre Scene

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