Jackie Hoffman, Kelly
photo by Hunter Canning
Fruma-Sarah (Waiting In
mention of the New York City’s own wildly popular actress and comedian Jackie
Hoffman – she of 1000 facial expressions, bodily quirks, a score of well-placed
adlibs, and a mesmerizing voice that takes you prisoner with a waterfall of
precisely enunciated words – signals that somewhere lurking around a corner is
yet another not-to-missed Hoffman Happening.
good news for Hoffman lovers is that the ever-glorious and incandescent
Hoffman, along with fellow actress Kelly Kinsella, is back in the saddle again,
and currently chewing up the scenery in E. Dale Smith’s two-handed serio-comedy
Fruma-Sarah (Waiting In The Wings), at the Chelsea-based Cell Theatre 338 West 23rd Street through July
after spending some two pre-pandemic years Off-Broadway (2018-2020) playing the
role of Yentle in the Joel Gray directed Yiddish production of Fiddler On The
Roof, first at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and then at Stage 42, Hoffman has
returned to the neighborhood of Fiddler. This time as Fruma-Sarah, the late
wife of the town’s butcher Lazar Wolfe.
For those who
do not remember Fruma-Sarah – even I had to refresh my memory – Fruma, appears
in Fiddler at the end of act one, as part of Tevye’s dream. Returning from the
grave, for all of three minutes, Fruma makes a show-stopping, high above the
stage, mid-air appearance. Upon hearing that Tevye’s youngest daughter, the
twenty-year-old Tzeitel is to marry her late husband Lazar, she terrorizes
Tevye by threatening to come to his daughter at night, and take her “by the
this conceit, playwright Smith has turned Fruma-Sarah’s three-minute fly-in and
fly-out role in Fiddler into a 75-minute, intermissionless play, in which a
crazily swathed Hoffman, looking much like the Madwoman of Chaillot (thanks to
the keen eye of costumer Bobby Goodrich), is seen waiting backstage for her cue
to take to take to the stage.
wait, which is the entire play, Hoffman, playing Ariana Russo, an aging actress
(she is a real estate agent when she isn’t on stage) is seen sitting backstage
at a New Jersey community theater. She is tethered to a fly-system by Margo
(the wonderful Kelly Kinsella whose role as Adrian’s backstage keeper, and for
purposes of this play, her foil). It is Margo’s job to see that Ariana remains
safe, sober and quiet while waiting for her cue to go on.
taking nips of bourbon from a silver flask, which she tries to hide in the
folds of her gown from Margo, Ariana recounts her life in a series of wit and wisdom
monologues, many of which rely heavily for their effectiveness, on Hoffman’s
sure-fire delivery. Along the way, casually tossed about, are a litany of her
thoughts and observations on Jews, millennials, Facebook, Trump supporters,
gays, past and current cast members, people best encountered one at a time, and
her ten-minute walk-on in a production of Ragtime.
turning inward, with a bit crying in her bourbon, we also hear about her two
failed marriages (one husband, who she is still friends with, left her for
Mateo, his young male protégé), her one-bedroom apartment filled with IKEA
furniture, her early theatrical successes which have now dwindled down to near
nothing, and her ruptured relationship with her daughter. The latter due to a
speech Ariana gave at her daughter’s wedding in which announces for all to hear
that her daughter “needs to be sure that her husband is not a fairy.” This one
had the audiences just about peeing in their pants.
FRUMA-SARAH (WAITING IN
THE WINGS) runs July 1 - 25, Tuesday – Friday at 8pm,
Saturday at 5pm & 8pm and Sunday at 4pm. Running time is 75 minutes, no
intermission. Patrons are required to show proof of vaccination upon arrival
and follow all current city, state and theatrical union mandated Covid safety
protocols. Tickets are $35 - $57, available at www.SpinCycleNYC.com. Tickets are all general admission, with the
least expensive tickets available on a first come, first served basis -- or pay
a bit more and support the artists and organizations involved.