Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, July 2007
If you are now or have ever been a teen-aged girl, you must go and see So Kiss Me Already, Herschel Gertz! which has only two more performances at the Daniels Arts Center on the Simon's Rock campus as part of the 2007 Berkshire Fringe Festival. If you are not female you will still get a big kick out of this show, but trust me, ladies, this is a show for you.
This is the second one-woman-show/monologue from writer/performer Amy Salloway. Her first Does This Monologue Make Me Look Fat? was presented at the 2006 Berkshire Fringe Festival, among many other places. Salloway refers to having joined “the wonderful world of theatrical tourism” as she has toured these two shows, with a third, Circumference set to debut at the Minnesota Fringe Festival on August 2.
Salloway is a talented lady. A talented writer and actor and an appealing personality. Here she plays a version of herself during the summer she was 15, but she also plays all of the other teens and adults, male and female, who make up teen-aged Amy’s world. Obviously this piece is based on Salloway’s own life experience – she is Jewish, she did spend at least one summer at a Jewish camp, and she was, presumably, once 15-years-old, but the Amy Salloway plays in So Kiss Me Already, Herschel Gertz! is a fictional character.
Salloway is quoted as saying that she was inspired to write this piece not just by her own camp experiences, but also by her adult experiences as a counselor at a Unitarian Universalist Church, where she hears from a lot of people who tell her about their disillusionment with the faiths in which they were raised. An important part of Salloway’s camp experience was her realization that she lacked the devotion to her faith that her peers seemed to possess, and therefore she also lacked the happiness and satisfaction they derived from their faith lives.
So Kiss Me Already, Herschel Gertz! follows the fictional Amy through about ten weeks of her 15th summer. As school ends she and her best friend Lenore have big plans to tan and do Drill Team clinics all summer, and Amy also plans to stalk Ross Buchman, the unobtainable object of her love and lust. It is apparent that Ross and Amy actually have a lot in common and their friendship is deep, but she is “not his type” and she comes to realize over the course of the summer that they will never be more than just friends.
But the best laid plans of teen-aged girls oft go astray. Amy’s mother is having a hysterectomy so Amy is shipped off to Camp L’Chaim for eight weeks of Nature Walks with Moses, Israeli Folk Dancing, and futile attempts to crochet a yarmulke. A misfit at home, there at least Amy has friends. At Camp L’Chaim she feels inadequate physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Leonore is plotting to come and kipnap her, until something miraculous happens. A gangly, goofy boy named Herschel Gertz comes into her life. Herschel is not the love of her life, but he is a good and kind person who ends up helping Amy come to some important realizations about herself as a young woman and as a human being.
There are lots of laughs in this 75 minute show, but lots of poignant moving moments as well. This is more than just a bunch of jokes about Judaism, coming of age, and first love, it is a well-told story in which our heroine grows and moves forward in life. It is a fully satisfying entertainment.
Annie Cady, Tom Cassidy, and Loren Niemi are credited as the Directorial Team, which means that Salloway had the good sense to assemble a group of trusted individuals to offer outside opinions on her writing and performance. Good for her! Joe Whiteis is credited with sound editing and with speaking the recorded lines as the Voice of Camp L’Chaim, which give Salloway a few brief moments every now and then to grab a sip of water. I hope that Witeis and whoever is stage managing the Berkshire Fringe turn down the volume on the background music and crowd noise scenes a bit because Salloway was almost drowned out a couple of times, and the acoustics are exceptionally good in the black box theatre where the show is being performed.
I am sure this show is even funnier if you are Jewish, but this Shiksa had no trouble figuring out what was going on and why it was funny. I a short Hebrew glossary is provided in the program and I do recommend giving it a once over if its been a few years since your Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
So Kiss Me Already, Herschel Gertz! runs through July 20 in the Daniels Arts Center on the Simon's Rock campus as part of the 2007 Berkshire Fringe Festival. I will be seeing the show on July 18 and posting my review on this page the following day. Call 413-320-4175 for tickets and information.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2007