Now in its world premiere at The Tank, Don’t Do This To Us!, written by and co-produced with Stephanie Swirsky, takes a novel “What if?” approach to increasing anti-Semitism in the US. In it, a concerned woman concocts a plan to go back in history to 1999, so she can hook up with the culpable Jared Kushner and do damage to his genitalia, thereby preventing him from marrying Ivanka Trump and saving the reputation of Jews everywhere from the worst stereotypes he embodies, of excessive wealth, greed, corruption, and behind-the-scenes power-wielding. The socio-political comedy also takes a look at Jewish culture, history, and identity through the eyes of that woman and a group of her friends, then and now, to deliver the important message that everyone is different, behavior and personalities are unique, and over-the-top hatred and across-the-board stereotypes are ridiculous.
Directed by Tasha Gordon-Solmon, the go-back story, combining fact (including Jewish language and religion, and info about the real-life Kushner) and fiction (the time-traveling premise and invented circle of characters), is set in our troubled times of 2022, as the central protagonist Rachel gets updates on old acquaintances from her loquacious long-time friend Ravit, and voices her concerns about the current state of affairs and what she would do to fix it. Later that night, when she lights the Shabbat candles, she is miraculously transported back to a 1999 Shabbaton – a weekend event for Jewish teenagers – with a group of girls and the young Jared (the grandson of Holocaust survivors, who grew up in a rich Orthodox Jewish family in NJ), affording her the opportunity she envisioned, to “break his penis” and change the future.
The show is performed by an excellent and engaging cast of eight, led by Mara Kassin as the determined Rachel, who is new to the group and sometimes forgets that no one in the ‘90s knew about cell phones or swiping. She is supported by Rivka Borek as Ravit, Chanel Karimkhani as Jodi, Lilli Stein as Shira, and Alex Trow as Elisheva, each capturing the humor, behavior, and attitudes of their individual characters – from garrulous to insecure, from smart to dominant – as they meet, talk, bond, lament, compete, and fight. And Grant Harrison is hilarious as the seventeen-year-old Jared Kushner, gawky and goofy, with an expressed appreciation for Margaret Thatcher and his future ambition, and the romantic interest of more than one of the girls.
An effective scenic design by Ant Ma, lighting by Ebony M. Burton, and sound by Hannah Birch Carl support the magical premise of the story and efficiently transport us from the present to the past and back again, and costumes by Stefanie Genda help to define the characters and eras. For those audience members who are not fully versed in Jewish religious tradition, some of the language, terms, and passages can be difficult to follow; a printed program with explanatory notes would be helpful (but what isn’t known encourages further reading and understanding). And the script could use some overall tightening, as parts of the 105-minute show, performed without intermission, become a bit too long and redundant. But Don’t Do This To Us! is entertaining and relevant, and the cast is successful in delivering both the laughs and the significance.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 45 minutes, without intermission.
Don’t Do This To Us! plays through Sunday, August 28, 2022, at The Tank, 312 West 36th Street, NYC. For tickets (starting at $25, plus fees), go online. Medical-grade mask and proof of vaccination are required.
What does “Jewish language” refer to?
Both religious passages in Hebrew as well as more colloquial expressions and terms in Yiddish, which are based in Jewish culture and tradition.