Review: ‘I Did It My Way In Yiddish (In English)’ by Deb Filler at MetroStage

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Deb Filler’s love note to the world wends through near-universal musical touchstones, bawdy humor, the joys (or not) of Yiddish, coincidental connections, and the impact of one important musical figure on the life of her family. Deb’s verve and talent are enough to make this one-woman show a good bet. The 12-minute film at its core makes it a must-see.

Deb Filler in “I Did It My Way in Yiddish (in English)” at MetroStage. Photo by Chris Banks.
Deb Filler in “I Did It My Way in Yiddish (in English)” at MetroStage. Photo by Chris Banks.

Filler populates the stage with persons private, public and universal. Her aunt from Mexico City who has plenty to say about the fit of her pants (“too tight”) is as familiar as her mother, who upstages 11-year-old Deb by bringing along a fresh cheesecake to a meet and greet with Peter, Paul, and Mary in her hometown of Auckland, New Zealand.

Smoothly moving from autobiography to joke or song and back again, Filler carries you through a life of music touched by personal experience with what she calls her three Lennys: Leonard Bernstein, Leonard Cohen, and Lenny Kravitz.

The touchstone of the evening is ‘Mr. Bernstein.’ The 12-minute short, co-written by Filler and Guy Hamlin, and directed by Fran Zuckerman, left me in tears. It is the true story of Bernstein’s conducting seventeen concentration camp survivors in a performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” at the Feldafing displaced person camp in May 1948. Filler’s father, a resident of the camp, says that this performance made him think it was possible to build a new life after the war. Part of the life he builds leads his daughter, Deb, to deliver his freshly baked challah to Bernstein on a shabbat when he is working in Auckland.

In contrast is the boot-shaking hilarity of stories such as the effect of French butter, Italian olive oil and chicken schmaltz during the course of an evening, the unspooling of Leonard Cohen’s greatest treasure in Filler’s cab in NYC, and the multiple contexts of Lenny Kravitz and Dandelion Balls.

Filler almost makes Yiddish the new Esperanto; its use in no way limits the appeal of her performance. If only we could get her to serve her famous challah!

Running Time: One hour and 30 minutes, with no intermission.

I Did it My Way in Yiddish (in English) by Deb Filler plays through April 29, 2018, at MetroStage, 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria, VA  22314. To purchase tickets, call the box office at (703) 548-9044 or go online.