A Play, a Restaurant, a Book and Two Movies

1.  The Play.  The Playdoh Golem, by Sean Northrup, is a treat.   After putting on a Purim spiel, the Hebrew School girls (Goldman, Goldberg and Goldstein) plot to get the boys.  One of them, the A-girl, is expert on such things.  One of them has a crush on Josh, but is pursued by his much too young brother, Sam.  And the other, the intellect of the crowd, has (or does she?) a “secret boyfriend”.  But things are not so simple, as it turns out the Josh likes a girl from the town’s Catholic school (and we won’t tell you who the secret boyfriend is).  The three G’s, in order to win Josh back to the tribe, decides to make a Golem to get rid of the gentile girls.  They get instructions on the internet, and use playdoh (from the Hebrew School nursery) rather than clay, which they cannot find.  Lo and behold, their efforts to create a Golem succeeds, and the Golem heads off towards gentile Nicki.  At some point, however, they realize that this is not the thing to do.  But how to stop the Golem.  They figure it out; they tell the Golem that Nicki is Jewish (have you ever seen a confused Golem before?).  Oh, and its a rock musical, if I forgot to say that, with such future hit songs as “My father got me a hooker for my bar mitzvah”.

Credits to the playwright, to Michelle who played Gold___ terrifically, to Hannah who produced and to the rest of the cast and staff.  See daughter Hannah’s blog for pictures.
2.  The Restaurant.  Nage, the D.C. version of the Rehoboth Beach restaurant, turned out to be a disappointment and, what is worse, an expensive one.  Not that it wasn’t comfortable (although its hotel lite decor could as easily have been a coffee shop), and certainly the menu is intriguing.  But the two fish dishes we ordered were very mediocre (and the rockfish had to be sent back, but because it was too close to rockfish sushi).  Too bad.  (We did have a nice waitress, who was also the chalkboard writer and had to explain to everyone that she made a mistake when she said that the pork chop was $39, but that she couldn’t find the chalk to change it).

3.  The book.  Confidential Secretary, by Robert Donovan, the biography of Eisenhower’s secretary Ann Whitman, tells you as much about Eisenhower as about Whitman.   Whitman, who had worked for one of the Sears Roebuck Rosenwalds, was persuaded to help out as a volunteer in the first Eisenhower campaign, and with a friend (who was a friend of my wife’s as it turns out) flew to Denver to chip in.  After a few days, when Eisenhower’s secretary took ill, Whitman was asked if she would help Ike for a day.  She stayed with him for almost ten years.

Of course, to be an important cog in the Eisenhower machine had its costs.  You got to travel a lot, but rarely saw anything when you got there.  You ate a lot of peppermint patties and, according to Donovan, sometimes had four martini lunches (really?), and your husband, who stayed in New York while you lived in D.C., got understandably fidgety.  He didn’t stay husband.

Most interesting, however, was the story of Eisenhower’s first heart attack, which he had on vacation in Denver (his inlaws lived there), when he was 64.

“After his golf game Eisenhower returned to the unpretentious eight room gray brick house of Mrs. John S. Doud…..It was 6:45 a.m.  One of her warm friends on the White House staff, Major General Howard McC. Snyder, was calling….At 74, he was personal physician to President Eisenhower.  Snyder told Ann that the president would not be in early that morning….

“That they should have been left for so long in ignorance of what was happening is astonishing.  After returning from golf Friday evening, Eisenhower did not feel well.  He went to sleep but awoke at 1:30 a.m. with a severe chest pain.  Mrs. Eisenhower telephoned General Snyder.  Within minutes of his arrival Snyder concluded that the president was suffering from a coronary thrombosis, although he could not assess the extent of damage to the heart.

“The episode is unmatched in American history.  The president was lying in a room in a house in Denver in the middle of the night with a heart  attack.  Only one person in the world, Howard Snyder, knew it, as he informed neither the president nor Mrs. Eisenhower of his tentative diagnosis.  No oxygen supply was available.  He did not summon an ambulance.  Snyder was not a heart specialist.  No second opinion was immediately sought, no consultation arranged.  Snyder later told Ann, as she recorded the conversation in her diary, that it was ‘better to let the president sleep and his system get over the initial shock, rather than to wake him and get him to  a hospital immediately'”

4.  Movie #1.  “The Band’s Visit”.  The Alexandria (Egypt) Police Concert Band is invited to play in Israel.  There is no one to meet them at the airport.  They ask for directions to Beit Tikvah, and are told which bus to take.  But they wanted Petah Tikvah.  Beit Tikvah is a dead hamlet, with few residents, and less activity, but the band is stuck there (in their pale blue uniforms) overnight.  Communication on all sides is in broken English (with English subtitles), and the conversation a bit unreal.  The pace is slow.  The movie has gotten good reviews; I did not care for it.  I thought that the Egyptians looked like buffoons, who didn’t have a lick of practical sense, and the Israelis acted well out of the norms of society.  I thought the movie insulted everyone.  Sort of “Deliverance” in the desert, without the mayhem.

5 .  Movie #2.  “Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days” (I think that is the title).  A Romanian movie which won the Golden Palm award at Cannes in 2007.  It was one of the best, and most uncomfortable to watch, movies I have ever seen.  Set in late Cecesceau Romania in 1987, a university student needs an abortion (illegal in Communist Romania) and her roommate sets out to help her.  Their experience, which you can feel, is traumatic in every respect.  The abortionist is an extortionist, you are present at the abortion itself, everything must be secret, the fetus must be disposed of.  Horrible things.  An unbelievably good film.

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