Is Candy dandy?
New Jersey theatregoers will find out over the next four weeks, as a new musical, The Book of Candy, plays in a co-production with two local venues, Trenton's Mill Hill Playhouse (Oct. 18-28) and Madison's Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey (Nov. 1-18).
Susan Dworkin, a novelist ("Stolen Goods," "The Nazi Officer's Wife") adapted her own fiction work for the book and lyrics, with Mel Marvin, who co-conceived Tintypes and The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm, composing the music.
Ahvi Spindell directs the piece, which tells of a Long Island housewife taking a picaresque journey beyond the world of her cheating husband, advice-giving mom and Israeli lover. Author Dworkin told TotalTheater.com columnist Simon Saltzman (Oct. 2001) the musical was inspired by the Book of Esther and her wondering whatever happened to that heroic figure after she saved the nation of Israel. Noting that Esther would've had to spend the rest of her life married to a man who nearly to Haman's advice and annihilated her people, Dworkin said, "It is Esther's sacrifice, her bravery and selflessness that is a gift in perpetuity to the community."
Dworkin added that the play's feminist angle also tackles, "the appalling slander of the Jewish American princess stereotype. But just as Queen Esther did, Candy, a lovely woman, grows as a citizen when she realized that the only way to save a situation is to offer herself as a sacrifice... It is that quality that guided those people on that plane that went down in Pennsylvania. When I ask myself who has courage, it is not the suicide hijackers. It is the people who were convinced that the only way to prevent a calamity was to keep the plane from continuing on its course. No one sold them bill of goods. They were just ready to defend their countrymen." The Book of Candy, which features a four-piece, onstage Klezmer band, had its first staged reading at the McCarter Theater. The current cast includes Lauren Mufson as the title, Connie Day, Jonathan Brody, Ted Grayson, Adam Heller, Martin Vidnovic (Baby), Jill Abramovitz (Cafe Society) and Beth Glover.
For tickets and information on The Book of Candy at Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey call (973) 514-1787.
— By David Lefkowitz