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Gold Star

November 9, 2006 By:
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Judy Gold

Q and A? Q and Oy!

Judy Gold's "25 Questions for a Jewish Mother" is, unquestionably, a warm kugel of a comedy that may just be the Jewish mother of all Jewish mother shows.

Questions, from the audience? You there, far left -- or, as some would call it, the Jewish seat.

Q: "Is this a show I should take my mother to? She's always complaining she never goes out."

A: It's perfect, Where else but in a theater can she legitimately say she'd rather sit in the dark?

Okay, lights up. And there's Gold alighting the stage, prancing, punching, pacing, as she talks about what it is to be a Jewish mother without fear of turning up the stereo on the stereotypes.

Would her own mother kvell or kill? And why, in such chilly weather, isn't Gold wearing a sweater?

Maybe that should be question No. 1 of 25 for this gay Jewish mama, who answers back with a forked tongue that comes from working the kitchen at home and cabarets on the road.

On top of everything, she is the real Church Lady. Can you believe it, she asks of her prayers being answered: Her one-woman show is a smash off-Broadway -- in a converted church where you can light a votive candle and vote her best comic to ever deliver a punchline from the pulpit.

"We call it Temple Beth St. Luke," Gold quips.

A mother's kisses? A mother's questions! But here is where born-to-run-with-it Judy Gold reverses fields, and has the field to herself. She, the daughter, is the one asking the questions, which she, along with playwright Kate Moira Ryan, came up with crisscrossing the country, interviewing Jewish moms.

Ye of little faith: There were those, and the Orthodox, too. There were gay Moms, converts, old moms, young moms, Puerto Rican moms and Chinese Jewish moms who would complain and then want to kvetch an hour later all over again.

The Gold mettle: She and Ryan have transformed a treasure trove of the ultimate theatrical un-treif into a triumph for one and all. Consider it "Jewish Jeopardy" because you think you know the answers before the questions are asked? Not with these contrary contestants!

With SRO business before its move off-Broadway -- where more Roses than rosaries now fill the church -- Gold's burnished a long career of stand-out stand-up, appearances on late-night TV and a great gig as the question lady/host in HBO's ongoing "At the Multiplex With Judy Gold."

Multi-talented, raised in a Jewish Jersey kosher home, Gold is no shrimp on stage: At 6 foot 3, she is a funny footlight all her own, shining light to show where the laughs are.

Who's laughing now? Her mother? "She loves it. Look, with a Jewish mother, every day you have new material."

This is a Material Girl Madonna never dreamed of: "My mother hears my jokes and says, 'I want residuals.' "

There is no residual resentment here. As Oedipus' psychiatrist might have said, "She's a good girl. She loves her mother."

But does this funny fame come with a price? Does bringing her mother into the spotlight put Gold in a spot? Is she a new member of the Drama Guilt?

"Guilty? Do I feel guilty? I've always felt guilty!"

Guilty as charged ... of giving Jewish mothers their dues ... and don'ts. "Women are the caretakers and so much more," says Gold. "No one asks them, 'Who are you?' "

Who is she to do so? An award-winning wit who knows "there is a story behind every Jewish mother; the stereotypes are not who they are."

A critical hit, Gold knows she'll still take critical hits for employing some stereotypes, even if they're true. This is not a quiz show for the queasy. "Jews ... we enjoy criticizing," she says with a shrug in her voice.

What's a mother to do? "I've accomplished my objective. Now I know how I fit into the world of Jewish motherhood."

Is it a comfortable fit? For her, yes; for others, less enlightened, maybe they'd like to see her take it out a bit more at what they consider the waste. The mother of two -- Henry's 10, Ben, 5 -- is too happy to give a damn about those who carp that lesbian moms are less, not more, when it comes to parenting.

Hers is a perfect marriage of mirth and motherhood. Though separated from her longtime partner, Gold stars in raising the gold standard for single mothers with her own particular success story, blending her brood of boys into a brotherhood with good breeding.

It Changed Her Life

"I've become a different mother since I started the show," she avows. "These women" -- heroes of her hit play -- "have had a profound effect on me. These women," she says of her mother superiors -- "have changed my life."

It's a changed life since her lover left. Gone with the Wendy -- her former partner's stage name in the show -- has not left her going crazy. "I decided I can't be angry," says Gold. In fact, "she lives in the same building, three floors away. We share custody."

The relationship gets its share of the attention on stage. And the kids share in the adoration. "Their godparents live down the hall -- it's like a kibbutz in the building."

Ever the kibitzer, Gold has gone platinum on stage with this show. Her love of being a mother smothers all other emotions, it seems. "There is such a bond. Who the hell wants to think of themselves all the time?" she says of the joys of parenthood.

The Joke's on Her!

"It's wonderful not having to focus on yourself all the time because, I'll tell you the truth, I can be quite annoying."

No complaints from the crowds at St. Luke's, whom she confides to: "Over the years, things got so bad between my mother and I, we stopped talking to each other and started communicating by putting Ann Landers articles on the refrigerator."

Chill -- that's what the audience learns on how to appreciate their own moms, meddling or martyrs; the appropriate word here is appreciate. "They leave the theater and go call their mothers."

This calling of Gold's is not without some hang-ups. "Such a taboo topic," she says of how some respond to her as gay. "I would never talk about being gay in the beginning" of her career.

As for those who now question the performer of "25 Questions for a Jewish Mother": "Are you a gay Jew?,"she answers, "No, I am a Jew. Being gay is just a part of who I am."

Think it's hard to be a Jew? "No one wants to be gay; it's hard," she admits.

Without question, it's hard not to laugh along with Gold. But, she acknowledges, if she really wanted a challenge, she would have presented "25 Questions for a Jewish Father."

It just would not work, she warns. Why (Question No. 23)? "They wouldn't talk."

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