Though it fails to answer the tormenting and very necessary query “Why brisket?” 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, by comedian Judy Gold and playwright Kate Moira Ryan, does pose an intriguing catechism. Beginning in the late ’90s, Gold and Ryan surveyed over 50 bona fide Jewish mothers (including writers, lawyers, housewives, Holocaust survivors, and a Chinese woman who had converted) on topics such as “What makes a Jewish mother different from a non-Jewish mother?” “Do you approve of your children’s choices?” “Are you kosher?” etc. Gold performs their answers, interspersing the excerpts with autobiographical niceties.
A self-confessed “Orthodyke,” Gold describes herself as “a 6’3″ kosher stand-up comic raising two kids on the Upper West Side” with her erstwhile girlfriend, Wendy. In other words, she’s not your typical Yiddishe mama. Gold developed the show as an attempt to find out “how and if I fit into the world of Jewish motherhood.”
A statuesque woman with big eyes, big hair, and a big mouth (natch), Gold charms a restive audience with almost mesmeric ability. The matinee crowd, a crotchety group who had bemoaned the show’s late start with stamps and sharp remarks, laugh themselves sick within seconds of Gold’s entrance. Her ample personality and presence ably cloak some of the structure’s hoariness and script’s sentimentality. Much of the show is legitimately moving, but Gold too often resorts to bathetic statements such as how the interviews she conducted “have enriched my life and my work in ways I never could have imagined.” Nevertheless, her mother must be so proud.