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‘Too Jewish’ too much of the same

Times Staff Writer

The final song in Avi Hoffman’s “Too Jewish, Too!” -- before the inevitable encore, that is -- ends with these words: “Come on, let’s have a matzo ball. Thank you very much.”

Those lines adequately sum up the spirit of this light, schmaltzy show about Jewish American culture, at the Coronet Theatre.

“Too Jewish, Too!” is Hoffman’s second production to play L.A. It’s in repertory with the first, “Too Jewish?,” which originally played the Freud Playhouse in late 2000.

Back then, the question mark in “Too Jewish?” helped raise an expectation of a probing attempt to grapple with Jewish assimilation issues. That expectation wasn’t met.

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With the newer show, however, there is very little expectation of anything deeper. The exclamation point in “Too Jewish, Too!” suggests in advance that this production, too, is hardly likely to resemble a serious-minded disquisition. At least on this count, “Too Jewish, Too!” does not disappoint.

In fact, “more of the same” is the best description of this show’s relationship to its predecessor. “The same” would even apply for a few parts of this show. Hoffman has recycled some of his material -- such as a Jewish western-song medley and his recitation of a letter from George Washington to some early American Jews -- from the first show to the second.

Both shows dwell on warm memories of growing up Jewish in mid-20th century America and historical trivia about Jews. Much of the material in the newer show is taken from the songs of ‘50s musical parodist Mickey Katz.

For example, a straightforward rendition of the traditional “Yiddishe Mama” is followed by Katz’s “Yiddishe Mambo.”

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Hoffman’s singing voice is reedy but pleasant -- and occasionally over-amplified. He’s accompanied by pianist Chris Dawson, as opposed to the six-piece klezmer band that accompanied him when the show opened in New York.

Hoffman tells jokes well, and some of them are funny. A few are lame. One particular joke about a turkey is, well, a turkey.

Near the end of the show, Hoffman sings a song about the thrill of incipient fatherhood. It has nothing to do with Jews, per se, and there is no hint that Hoffman is about to become a father again (he already has two children), so it seems out of the blue.

At several points, Hoffman speaks of the Jewish “faith that everything will be all right.” Many a Jewish comic and plenty of rabbis might dispute this simplistic analysis.

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But Hoffman’s fans probably see his shows in order to be bathed in these sanguine sentiments. If older Jews are concerned that the cozier, more haimish elements of their heritage might dissipate in the American melting pot, Hoffman is here to reassure them that someone cares.

*

‘Too Jewish, Too!’

Where: Coronet Theatre, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.

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When: Wednesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 and 7 p.m. “Too Jewish?” plays Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays, 5 p.m.

Ends: April 13

Price: $25-$35

Contact: (310) 657-7377

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Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes


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