By Tulis McCall

OK THIS goes on my FAVORITES list.  You can take a pause from reading this and go get tickets.  I can wait.  While I am waiting i have to confess that I am one of those people who try not to laugh because I am afraid of missing something – it is the Connecticut Yankee in me – and I was hard pressed to stifle at this show.

The Title of this show, “Just For Us” might have you believe that Dovid Yosef Shimon ben Elazar Reuven Halevi Alexander Edelman – aka Alex Edelman is sharing stories that are just for us.  Nope – there is a whole other group who subscribe to the “Just For Us” Code and they live a stone’s throw away in Queens.

Ergo – you don’t have to be Jewish to LOVE “Just For Us.”  Having said that – it couldn’t hurt if you were because that way you wold get to the punchlines way before us Goys. The way he is different from the non-Jews is that his religion is not something that can be jettisoned like a backpack filled with rocks.  “I am a recovering Catholic” or “I was raise methodist.” Nope nope nope.  This does not fly with Edelman.  No one can undo being Jewish – and this has its own set of joys and mini-minefields.

While the story revolves around us following Edelman through his life and in particular to one meeting of white supremacists out in Queens – it is so specific that the story includes us all.  Edelman take a page out of the styles of two exceptional performers – Neal Brennan (reviewed HERE) and Mike Birbiglia (reviewed HERE) who is also a producer on this show.  All three have grasped the story-telling secret.

Here it is.

#1) You tell the audience what  you are going to tell them.

#2) You tell them.

#3) You wrap up by reviewing what you told them.

Psst – Here is the secret about this secret – you have to twist the ending just enough to let them know you were stringing them along the whole time.  Just a tiny tweak.

Edelman delivers on all counts, and in between the telling of the telling are nuggets from his childhood that make you think you were his sibling.  If a family member referred to a person who was lacking the phrase was, “God has not given with both hands.”

And then there was the minefield of just navigating growing up.  Edelman did not have an easy time.  He saw so many psychiatrists that the last one was free.  In retrospect it is funny, and that is the way Edelman likes it, because he has tapped into the fact that all of us are survivors.  Childhood is no joke which makes you wonder why people don’t get how smart kids really are.

As he stretches out the story of the meeting he attended in a sort of under-cover way, he dips into his treasure trove of observations – Hanukah is the Diet Coke of the holiday season.  No one sits in the living room unless something bad has happened.  Babies are not cute, period.

All the while he is leading us through the dual labyrinth of his life and that one weird night at a meeting in Queens.  Turns out the two are in lockstep.  As the show moves on, Edelman does not shy away from the anti-semitism or the predicament of deep distrust that is our constant shadow.  Instead he lays the pieces out for us to see as if they were part of a giant jigsaw just waiting to be clicked into place.

“Just For Us”  reminds me of the old print ad campaign, “You Don’t Have To Be Jewish to Love Levy’s,” that featured an obligatory sandwich using Levy’s Rye and a series of photos of consumers who were various ages and nationalities.  Even Buster Keaton and Malcolm X got in on the campaign. Ah the good old 60’s and 70’s when people had a sense of humor that didn’t get them arrested.

When Edelman drops us off at the final bus stop you realize we have doubled back around to the beginning.  He leaves us where he found us, except we are the wiser for it.

Well, everyone except for the jackass who wanted to rush us out of Row J, Audience left, so he could get out of the theater and bug someone out on the street.  Everyone except him got the message.  Life is NOT just for us.


JUST FOR US – Written and performed by Alex Edelman; Directed by Adam Brace

Set by David Korins, Lights by Mike Baldassari, Sound by Palmer Efferan

Hudson Theatre(141 W 44th St). Through August 19th.Tickets are on sale now HERE