the story of Morris Bober, a modest grocery store owner in 1940s Brooklyn, whose effort to live a virtuous life according to Jewish law is threatened by Frank Alpine, a drifter from the West, whose outsized ambitions and lust for Helen, Morris' daughter, challenge and change the Bober family in ways they could have never imagined.
Zuckerman’s focus in this adaptation is on “the relationship between Morris, a failed grocer, and Frank, an outsider who had done Morris harm. Frank sees the gentle humanity in Morris, who becomes the father he never had.” Veteran stage director Vogel was attracted to this project because “one does not often come across a play as complex and filled with moral ambiguities as The Assistant. It addresses issues that are as relevant today as they were when Malamud wrote the novel in the late 50’s.”
Malamud’s concerns in The Assistant are evident throughout all his work, most especially in his short stories. Though told in a spare, compressed prose that reflects the terse speech of their immigrant characters, the stories often burst into emotional, metaphorical language. Grim city neighborhoods are visited by magical events, and their hardworking residents are given glimpses of love and self-sacrifice. Malamud’s short-story collections are The Magic Barrel (1958), Idiots First (1963), Pictures of Fidelman (1969), and Rembrandt’s Hat (1973). The Stories of Bernard Malamud appeared in 1983, and The People and Uncollected Stories were published posthumously in 1989. The People, an unfinished novel, tells the story of a Jewish immigrant adopted by a 19th-century American Indian tribe. One critic spoke of “its moral sinew and its delicacy of tone.”
Martin M. Zuckerman was a mathematics professor at City College. He has adapted nine works of Henry James, Edith Wharton, Katherine Mansfield, and John Dos Passos. His play, The Aspern Papers, was produced by Turtle Shell Productions. Other plays have been produced at the Samuel French Festival, the Strawberry Festival, the Fifteen-Minute Festival (Belfast, ME), the Women of Color Festival, and the American Theatre of Harlem.
John W. Cooper (producer/artistic director) was awarded Best Actor in the European Tournament of Plays. He is the producer, artistic director and founder of Turtle Shell Productions, which has produced over one hundred plays, including Five by Tenn, Blues for Mister Charlie, PUCK’d, Ourselves Alone and The 8-Minute Madness Playwright Festival.
THE ASSISTANT is produced by John W. Cooper, Set Design by Kyle Dixon, Lighting by Rocco D'Santi, Costumes by A. Christina Giannini, Sound Design by Jason T. Hurley, the Stage Manager is Lindsay Vrab, and Dramaturg Michael Bettencourt.
Monday. Fridays & Saturdays at 8PM, Sundays at 5PM, Mondays at 7PM, Sunday “Closing” at 1PM
Theater: Shell Theater
Address: 300 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
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