Yesterday, we saw the New Yiddish Rep perform Death of a Salesman in Yiddish. Wow. What a show. The acting was superb. I’ve been studying Yiddish in my spare time for about three years, and I think this is perhaps the longest period where I’ve listened to spoken Yiddish. I understood quite a bit, and was happy (but not surprised) to notice differences between the spoken Yiddish and the supertitled translations in English projected on the wall. One of the actors said, “Hok nit kin tchainik,” which means literally, “Don’t knock a tea kettle,” and translates idiomatically as “Don’t make a bother.” The English translation was something akin to, “Don’t worry.” There were lots of little minor translation differences like these that gave me joy.
But the best part of the performance was the acting. Avi Hoffman, who played Willy Loman, was incredible. Truly from the moment he stepped on stage until his sad departure I never once doubted he was a down-and-out salesman slowly losing his mind. And the supporting cast was amazing too. Suzanne Toren as Linda, Daniel Kahn and Lev Herskovitz as Biff and Happy. Plus all the others were truly astounding. Makes me wish I were alive during Yiddish theater’s heyday last century. There are only a handful of performances remaining, and even if you don’t speak Yiddish, I highly recommend the play. (The English translation is projected above the actors throughout.)