From Tzivi’s Sept ’11 Spotlight:
Joseph Dorman’s wonderful new documentary Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness opened at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago and the Landmark Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park on Aug. 26, but I predict it will be so popular that it will still be playing locally well after this September issue arrives in your mailbox.
Readers of this column already know how passionate I am on the subject of Fiddler on the Roof, so you won’t be surprised to hear that I actually flew to New York last January for the film’s world premiere. Since that time, Laughing in the Darkness has been embraced by audiences everywhere, quickly jumping from the Jewish film festival circuit to commercial theatres in urban centers all around the USA.
In a mere 95 minutes, Dorman does a superlative job of placing Solomon Rabinowitz’s (Sholem Aleichem) work in historical context, masterfully combining a treasure trove of photos with scholarly reflections and readings from favorite stories by well-known actors such as Peter Riegert, all pulled together by a bouncy soundtrack from John Zorn.
But for all that, please forgive me one tiny kvetch: Laughing in the Darkness is a very male-oriented view of both “Sholem Aleichem” (as a writer) and Solomon Rabinowitz (as a man). Almost all of the “talking heads” Dorman interviews are men (with the sole exception of Ruth Wisse), very little attention is paid to Rabinowitz’s wife Olga and his large family (with its many daughters), and “Sheyne-Sheyndl” (wife of luftmensch “Menachem-Mendl”) is the only female character to get her own voice. Had Dorman included more women in his mix (maybe scholars like Anita Norich and/or translators like Aliza Shevrin), I’d be singing Now I Have Everything.
Joe Dorman with Karen Underhill after the Q&A at the Music Box Theatre in Andersonville on 8/27/11. (Photo Credit: Jan Lisa Huttner)