The children Judy Gold and her partner had using an anonymous sperm donor may have caused her to think about how her award-winning 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother could have also included questions from a Jewish mother.
As a now single, gay, Kosher-keeping mom, Gold has plenty of new material, but she is sticking with what has worked. Yes, she’s updated her eight-year-old show, and she does muse on whether she’ll go to Israel some day to conduct interviews there, but “essentially it’s the same” as when it was first performed in 2006. The topic of Gold’s mother—whose motto could well be, as Gold puts it, “I came, I saw, I criticized”—remains at the center of the performance. The 70-minute monologue interweaves anecdotes about her mother and stories based on interviews she conducted over a five-year period with Jewish mothers across the country, many of them Orthodox. She doesn’t play on the Jewish Mother stereotype, though some members of the Jewish press have criticized her on that ground. In fact, she says, she’s interviewed Jewish mothers who “knew nothing about Judaism,” just as she’s met Orthodox mothers, when she was on the road, who were “educated and complicated.” Her own mother, Ruth (Rivka), incidentally, has seen the show. Twice.
Gold’s sons Henry, 18, and Ben, 13, have not seen her act (“it’s really not for kids”), but their birth and adoption, along with her being gay, have provided grist for the monologue: “A couple of weeks ago, I was with the baby, and this woman comes up to me and goes, ‘Oh my God. He is so cute. Who do you think he looks like?’ I’m like, ‘Your husband.’” The show, written with her writing partner Kate Moira Ryan, is not all laughs. The monologue includes a selection of poignant tales, ranging over a number of themes and “the gamut of emotions.” These include an Orthodox woman whose son died of AIDS; a Chinese social worker who converted to Judaism; the absurdities of going around with an M.O.T. (member of the tribe) mentality (according to Gold, “Jewish people can look at people’s faces and tell if they’re Jewish. It’s a phenomenon that we have that we can’t explain.”); and analysis (“My therapist is so weird. I go in last week; she brings her daughter in to listen to my session. I’m like, ‘What’s this with the kid?’ ‘It’s career day.’”)
Gold, who originally hails from Newark, New Jersey, was a music student at Rutgers before she got hooked on stand-up. 25 Questions, however, is not “enhanced stand-up” but a carefully structured performance that reflects Gold’s accomplishments as a stage, film and TV actress and comedienne, as well as a GLBT advocate. She’s delighted that audiences react in different ways but find truth in her depictions. One man, married to an Orthodox woman, told her he hadn’t fully recognized his wife…until the monologue.
To paraphrase the old Levy’s rye bread commercial, “you don’t have to be Jewish” to love Gold’s show. Gold notes that many people come back with their mothers and that some kids come to be validated as gay and Jewish. She hopes—she promises—“an amusing night of theatre.”
Columbus Day weekend is HUGE at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor—check out their “Three Nights of Divas” series. Judy Gold will be performing “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother” on Saturday, October 11. Call 631-725-9500 or visit JudyGold.com (Tickets $59—89). Jazz phenom Judy Carmichael performs on Friday, October 10. She will be joined by Chris Flory on guitar, Pat O’Leary on bass, and Tom Melito on guitar. (Tickets $45—$75). On Sunday, October 12, it’s songstress Betty Buckley. (Tickets $59—$99). All shows start at 8 p.m. For more information, visit baystreet.org.