Image of MAZL TOV: A Play by Sholem Aleichem

MAZL TOV: A Play by Sholem Aleichem

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When the great Yiddish humorist Sholem Aleichem first published his one-act comedy, Mazl Tov, in 1899, the play could not be staged in his native Russia because Yiddish theatre had been banned by the Tsarist government. Since then, the play has received some notable stagings, but has eluded English-language readers for lack of a translation. Now the play is being published in English for the first time, in an expert translation by Harvey Fink, under the joint auspices of Jewish Currents magazine and the Workmen’s Circle of Northern California, Branch 1054.

Mazl Tov depicts the hijinks of a travelling bookseller, a kitchen cook, and the friends who pass in and out of the downstairs work rooms of a fancy mansion. According to Joel Schechter’s introduction, “the play toys with ideas that were controversial and new in 1899,” ideas that “raise the possibility of a new, changed world, where oppressed Jews and others consigned to the serving class will no longer sit and wonder why they, too, shouldn’t stand up, sing, dance for joy and feast like their employers.” Schechter, a columnist for Jewish Currents whose books include Radical Yiddish and Messiahs of 1933: How American Yiddish Theatre Survived Adversity through Satire, considers Mazl Tov to be “one of Sholem Aleichem’s finest one-act comedies.”

With the first-ever comprehensive English-language biography of Sholem Aleichem (by Jeremy Dauber) about to be published this fall, Mazl Tov serves as a perfect introduction to the great writer’s least-known creations, his works for the stage.