Off-Broadway's Theatre Four on 55th Street is the new home for Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre, the 83-year-old Yiddish-language troupe that lost its previous home following an Aug. 28 fire at New York City's Central Synagogue.
The fire, which displaced an entire congregation, did not damage the nearby synagogue auditorium used by Folksbiene, but because services for displaced worshippers needed to be held in the auditorium, plans for an Oct. 31 opening of Folksbiene's new musical, Sweet Dreams, were scuttled.
The musical, written and directed by co-artistic director Eleanor Reissa with traditional songs music-directed by co-artistic director Zalmen Mlotek, will open in previews Dec. 5 followed by an official opening Dec. 17. It will play through Jan. 31, 1999.
In September, it was not clear if Folksbiene would be able to find a space this year, but they "lucked out" with the availability of Theatre Four, at 424 W. 55th St., according to publicist David Gersten. Folksbiene produces one major show a year.
Theatre Four, near Ninth Avenue, opened under that name in 1962, offering The Cherry Orchard, The Boys From Syracuse and, most famously in its early days, Mart Crowley's The Boys in the band. In Sweet Dreams (Zise Khaloymes in Yiddish), veteran Yiddish theatre actress Mina Bern plays the ghost of the traditional mother of a career-driven New York Jewish woman (played by Ibi Kaufman).
The cast includes Julia Christina, I.B. Firestone, Keith Howard, Kudra Owens, Harry Peerce, Deborah Strauss and Jeff Warschauer. Orchestrations are by Frank London. Designers are C. Jane Epperson (sets), Gail Cooper Hecht (costumes) and Lap-Chi Chu (lighting).
Reissa earned a Tony Award nomination for staging the Yiddish revue, Those Were the Days, and directed and choreographed Off Broadway's Cowgirls. Mlotek is an authority on Yiddish and Klezmer music. This is their first season serving as co-artistic directors.
Folksbiene offers productions in Yiddish with simultaneous English and Russian translation available.
For ($25-$30) ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.
-- By Kenneth Jones