Jewish history is the story of the underdog, so perhaps it’s natural that the characters in Target Margin Theater’s latest explorations in Yiddish drama bear some resemblance to the animated canine superhero, or any standard issue DC Comics defender. With capes trailing and blue spandex blazing, TMT flies up, up, and away into mock-heroic metaphor with the campy Uriel Acosta: I Want That Man!, which finishes off the second season of Beyond the Pale, a project of almost biblical proportions, with 23 productions in two years.
The actual Acosta was a 17th-century Portuguese Christian and Rationalist who converted to Judaism, was excommunicated for his radical views, recanted, committed suicide, and wound up a stock figure of Yiddish theater claimed and contested by rival actors. But his significance soars Superman-like over us in this 70-minute, go-go-booted exodus from the philosophical high ground of a real-life apostate to the murkier marshland of his numerous fictionalized representations.
Firebrand, scapegoat, lover, coward, tragic hero: Acosta’s many caricatures are drawn in thick strokes under David Herskovits’s direction. Brandishing a hand-held fog machine, projectors, and three toy theaters, the four Uriels (led by James Tigger! Ferguson) and two technicians part the seas of interpretation into multiple rivulets, which meander brightly for a while before drying up inconclusively. Regrettably, TMT’s years of research in Yiddish culture leave us high and dry in a desert of affected playacting when we might have reached a more promising land of ideas.