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2nd Avenue South will present Crossing Delancey, a 1985 romantic comedy by Susan Sandler, Aug. 29-Sept. 14 at the North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theater in Greystone Village Shopping Center.
"I saw the movie by the same name in the 1980's starring Amy Irving," says director Al Singer. "I have never seen the play; I just know it is a very popular piece for Jewish as well as mainstream theater companies.
"Though simple in its themes," Singer adds, [Crossing Delancey] touches the heartstrings of most of the Jewish women that I talk to. When I told Jane Pinksy, a lobbyist who works with me at the N.C. Child Advocacy Institute, about doing Crossing Delancey, she sighed, and said 'I'm crying just thinking about it.... I love the play.'"
Singer says, "What I like best [about Crossing Delancey] is the honest way Susan Sandler weaves the characters through the themes of the clash of traditional versus modern values. As I approach 60, I have grown closer to my Jewish roots. The relationship between the lead character Isabelle Grossman (Rebecca Blum) and her grandmother Ida (Sylvia Dante) reminds me of caring for my mother, who moved in with me when she became very ill with diabetes.
"I have staged Ida in a wheel chair (Sylvia broke her back several years ago and walks with a walker and canes, and with some use of a wheel chair)," Singer explains, "and [Ida's] relationship with her granddaughter is the true driving force of this play. Ida hires a matchmaker to find a mate for Izzy."
Al Singer confesses, "It was my mother who was the real matchmaker between [my wife] Pat and I, after a string of my misguided love adventures in the 1980's. So the play rings pretty close to home. The nine years with my mother brought me back to the traditions and symbols of our Jewish heritage — the food, what a cook she was, her violin, and the stories of her youth."
In Crossing Delancey, Singer says, "Izzy, a single Jewish woman approaching 30 who works in a bookstore and visits her grandmother weekly, is falling for an older man Tyler Moss (David Klionsky ). Izzy is poetic and iconoclastic, and one gets the feeling that she hasn't had a lot of meaningful relationships.
"The grandmother, 80 and disabled, wants her dear granddaughter married and great grandchildren before she dies," explains Singer. "Ida hires the local matchmaker Hannah (Naomi Eckhaus) to find a match for the reluctant Izzy. Hannah offers up the wise and unpretentious local pickleman Sam Posner (Seth Blum) for Izzy. Sam is devoutly religious, though not orthodox. He lives the quintessential, unpretentious East Village life, and falls in love with Izzy.
"Ida and Hannah do their level best to link Sam and Izzy, they even compete for him, but Izzy chases and pines after the unobtainable Tyler, who represents the values of the secular modern world. When the grandmother and the matchmaker set up the big dinner date for Sam and Izzy, Tyler suddenly falls for Izzy and the fun begins," Singer says.
Director All Singer's production team for Crossing Delancey includes assistants to the director Pat Singer and Nancy Rich, costume designer Lynn Savitz, sound designer Rod Rich, light designer Bobby Cloutier, and prop designer Amy Bartley.
"The greatest challenge [for 2nd Avenue South] is coming up," claims Al Singer. "We're a new company, gypsies renting someone else's theater, and we don't get into the space until Tuesday ([before the] Friday opening) The cast has been wonderful, no out of whack egos. I suppose the hardest thing has been trying to run a child advocacy office in Durham while exhausting my energies on this passion."
Singer says the set "will be minimal. [The theater is] a black box. [There are ] three main stage locations connoted with simplicity. One interesting piece I found at the Glantz art gallery is a black steel sculptured bench for the matchmaker's bench. The figures of a man and woman make up the back of the bench. Bob Doster, director of the gallery, was willing to loan it to us for the production.
There is "no original music," Singer says, but he has selected some "traditional music done in a modern way: some from Herbie Mann's "Eastern European Roots" and some from Andy Statman and David Grisman CD. [There also is] a spritz of Abe Schwartz's Klezmer music, [and] some jazz and pop tunes move the scenes along."
2nd Avenue South presents Crossing Delancey Friday-Saturday, Aug. 29-30 and Sept. 5-6 and 12-13, at 8 p.m. and Thursday-Friday, Sept. 11-12, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 31 and Sept. 7 and 14, at 3 p.m. at the North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theater, Greystone Village Shopping Center, at the intersection of Leadmine Rd. and Saw Mill Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina. $15 ($10 seniors). 919/233 0752.