In Jesse Eisenberg’s recently opened comedy “Happy Talk,” suburban New Jersey do-gooder Lorraine (Susan Sarandon) tackles a new role—that of matchmaker—in both her life and her art. Fretting about her recalcitrant daughter and contending with a disabled husband and aged mother, Lorraine certainly needs a respite, and gets it when she is cast as Bloody Mary—the Pacific Islander woman and singer of “Happy Talk” —who brings her lovely daughter together with a romantic American naval lieutenant in her community theater’s production of the World War II musical “South Pacific.” And then, as if she doesn’t have enough on her plate, her mother’s Serbian health aide, Ljuba, asks Lorraine’s help in finding her a suitable husband.
In this play, award-winning dramatist, writer and movie star Eisenberg reveals the myriad attitudes of the affluent, as well as those who are paid to serve their needs, and the lengths the privileged will go to assuage their guilt. The show is being performed by The New Group at its theater on 480 West 42nd Street through June 16th.
Matchmaking is still alive and well at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art, founded by early 20th century European artists and craftsmen who settled in Israel, is still associated with the stunning Art Nouveau objects created by its faculty and students more than a century ago. Lately, artisans and designers have been reaching out to forge exciting partnerships with international companies, including iconic Danish toymaker LEGO and Ferrero, the Italian maker of Kinder Surprise, a chocolate and cream egg with a bonus, an often- kinetic trinket housed in its center. Taking several years to develop a concept and then to produce protypes and trials, the LEGO collaboration was the inspiration of former Bezalel student Yoel Mazor, a long-time LEGO fan. They yielded some especially successful results, which have not yet made their debut.
Consumers of Kinder Eggs, typically children younger than 8, need toys with simple parts that do not present a choking hazard. The Bezalel models, constructed by students enrolled in the toy design class of Professor Yaron Loubaton, were tested out on the kids who lived in his kibbutz. Several of them—like the LEGOs, still top-secret — scored a hit, and, it is thought, will also delight the many adults who enjoy eating the candy as well as putting together and playing with the toys, which have become highly collectible items in the years since Kinder Eggs’ “hatching” in 1974. (Wikipedia states that 30 billion of them have been sold during that time.)
Speaking of good things to eat, congratulations to Philadelphia’s Zahav (Gold), the recent winner of the James Beard Award for outstanding American restaurant, a prize considered the Oscar of the food world. Opened in 2008 by chef and previous Beard Award recipient Michael Solomonov, Zahav, whose name references Jerusalem as a city of gold, maintains its mission of “bringing the authentic flavors of Israel’s cultural heritage” to patrons. Specializing in grilled meats, small plates and a large list of Israeli wines, the restaurant is especially known for its varieties of hummus, paired with an array of delicious breads baked by Chef Solomonov.
Nothing drinkable remains in the creations of Beth Lipman, a maker of impressive, and often haunting, glass and mixed media objects and installations, who is slated for a 2020 retrospective at New York City’s Museum of Art and Design on 59th Street. Visitors to the Jewish Museum, among numerous other institutions like Florida’s Norton and Ringling Museums where her works are included in their permanent collections, have stopped to spend a good amount of time experiencing the ghostly, dreamlike 2012 commission “Laid Table with Etrog Container and Pastry Molds.” While some critics have channeled the inner raucousness of her art—they write about sharp, fragmented shards of containers and glassware, smashed during an out-of-control party or even a bacchanal—others have been struck by their evocation of sustained silence, and the palpable absence of imagined imbibers, their bodies symbolized by the broken, un-mendable vessels—now forever cut off from drunken exuberance, and from every other pleasure.
As the 48-year-old Pennsylvania-born artist, the daughter of a craftsperson, has written: “The hand-sculpted glass compositions are portraits of individuals and our society through inanimate objects. Every object created, whether broken, ‘flawed’ or ‘perfect,’ is incorporated into the final composition, literally capturing a moment in time. The process of creating defines the final composition.”
Cheryl Kempler is an art and music specialist who works in the B'nai B'rith International Curatorial Office and writes about history and Jewish culture for B’nai B’rith Magazine. To view some of her additional content, click here.
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