Awake and Sing! program

Awake and Sing! is a worthy production, if not quite kashrut

By Ken Turetzky

Awake and Sing! tickets“Did you notice the faux pas?” my mom asked after opening night of Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing!, directed by Arthur Feinsod at the New Theater on the Indiana State University campus.

“Who eats pastrami sandwiches with milk?” I replied.

“Exactly!” Mom said.

An internet search produced no further clues about the author’s stage direction regarding beverage choices. “The milk was so prominently displayed. I wonder if Clifford Odets meant something by that?” Mom asked. As we drank tea at the kitchen table following our return home, Mom typed out an email to Arthur on her iPad:

Hi, Arthur.

Thanks to Betsy [Frank]’s response to your e-mail asking her to alert the Congregation’s membership about “Awake and Sing,” my son Ken and I went to tonight’s performance. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The acting was amazing. I was impressed with all the cast, especially Jacob [Lew Hackleman] and Moe [Maverick Schmit].

One thing puzzles me though: In that Jewish household, why was there a glass of milk on the table along with pastrami sandwiches? Was that an error?

Or was it done on purpose to engender a response from any Jewish audience member? One can only wonder.

At any rate, my congratulations to you and your cast on an excellent production.

— Wilma Turetzky

We’ll let you know what we hear back. Meanwhile, Harvey Seidenberg had requested a capsule review (“If you think of it. It doesn’t have to be fancy!” Harvey said.) of the production. Here is that review:


I would say first I’m heartened to see a group of young actors take on socially relevant material that observes the struggle of working-class Jews during the Great Depression.

On the other hand, this is a student production, so the performances are mostly unformed. You’ll also hear a lot of “They treated me like doit!” dialogue as the actors deliver their most sincere representations of a New York-Jewish-1930s accent.

The makeup is excellent, for the most part, and helps create the characters, although you’ll find yourself studying the bald wigs and wondering how they’re fitted so neatly — or did those kids really commit to the roles and shave their heads?

One of the most Jewish-looking characters is actually an African-American actress, Ally Miles, who portrays the daughter, Hennie Berger. The standout performance is by Maverick Schmit, who projects his voice and establishes a real presence as Moe Axelrod, the disillusioned one-legged Great War veteran and interloper who pursues Hennie.

The theater is cold. Bring a jacket. You’ll question not only the Farberware coffeepot on the dining room table and wonder why they couldn’t find a better prop, but especially the presence of milk with pastrami sandwiches. “Faux pas?” as my Mom asked, or was this Clifford Odets’ statement about the relevance of Jewish tradition?

I’d recommend the play, but when Grandpa Jacob is complaining that the landlord should keep the steam on after 10 p.m., you’ll be asking whether anybody at the New Theater is listening, and will turn on the heat!

Awake and Sing! continues at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12, and 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, at the New Theater, 538 N 7th St. on the ISU campus. Tickets are $10. Call 812-237-3333 for more information.

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Steve Turetzky
Steve Turetzky
November 21, 2016 9:50 pm

A very readable review. I’m left feeling that, on balance, Ken didn’t enjoy the performance but, knowing him personally, I know that for him this is high praise. 🙂