A financially strapped remnant of the Old World, an anomalous piece of the lower East Side found on East 55th St., the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre somehow keeps going year after year. Rumors that last season's The Maiden Of Ludmir would be the Folksbiene's swan song have been happily disproved: the troupe has returned with The Blacksmith's Folly, which began performances Nov. 1. The show officially opens Nov. 12 and runs to Jan. 18, 1998.
The oldest continuously-run Yiddish theatre in the world -- 82 years! -- the Folksbiene plays out of Central Synagogue, 123 East 55th St., and offers translation via headset in both English and Russian.
Folly, a musical drama based on David Pinski's Yiddish classic, Yankel Der Schmid, features Folksbiene veterans Zypora Spaisman and Mina Bern, both over 80 years old. Spaisman's first show at the Folksbiene was 1956's Lonesome Ship. Mina Bern has toured with Yiddish theatre troupes in Europe, Poland and Russia, and entertained troupes during the Israeli War of Independence.
Also in the cast are Norman Kruger, Richard Carlow, J.B. Firestone, Ibi Kaufman, Rachel Botchan and Hy Wolf (as Yankel). Zalmen Mlotek serves as musical director on the piece, which is directed by Daniel Banks.
This production will feature a new prologue written specifically for the Folksbiene troupe by the play's modern adapter, Mihal Greenstein. Designing The Blacksmith's Folly are Gail Cooper-Hecht (costumes) and Anduin Havens (sets). Songs in Folly include "Di Maahke," "In Der Kuzhnye" and the traditional folktunes, "Papir Iz Dokh Vays" and "Fun Vanen Haybt Zikh On A Libe?". Asked about the company's return for a new season, spokesperson Adam Meza told Playbill On-Line, "Well, they're up and running, on their feet and going strong."
For tickets ($22-$30) and information on The Blacksmith's Folly call (212) 889-6800.
-- By David Lefkowitz