By David Walters

There’s that saying I’m sure you all know, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Schmaltz!, now playing as part of the New York City Fringe Festival being presented by FRIGID, is such a spoiled soup. Written AND directed by Armie Chardiet, Yoni Gutenmacher, Julia Rotgin, and David Slarskey, there is something of value lurking there in the script. The possibility of a fast-paced, self-effacing, comedic poke at kosher, generational lethargy, modern society, and Jewishness. It’s there. But what we have instead is a slow and plodding hour of long blackouts between scenes, slow cue pickups, confusion about scene progression, and missing hunks of meat in a bland broth.

Most of the creative team are either still in or just out of college and I put that down as to why this play is not what it could be. I don’t want to discourage their work, but just say that it’s there in the play, but not realized yet.

We learn, through the chorus of three Jewish nanas, Cheryl, Meryl, and Peryl (Rita Rehn, Bridget Burke Weiss, and Anna Jackson), that new immigrant Shlomo Golding came to Brooklyn from Poland in 1924 and opened the kosher deli Golding’s. He did very well for himself, making special ingredient matzo balls that eventually allowed him to purchase land in Florida, retire, and leave the deli to his sons and grandchildren,  It’s now one hundred years later and his grandson, Issac (Joshua Horowitz), “By the time it gets to the grandchild, even leftovers are spoiled,” has let the deli run itself down so much that there are barely any customers as the old-time regulars have now all died off. He spends most of his time hanging out at the basketball courts and the place has been completely run by the sole employee Mindy (Georgina Saldana Wonchee) for years, doing everything possible to keep the place open. Faced with its demise, Issac comes up with the idea to enlist an influencer, Ethan (Joshua Smithline, a bright light in the production) to create a video about the authenticity of the place and make it popular. It works. It works too well, and Issac, through his own self weakness, manages to lose his kosher status, the authenticity of Golding’s falls away, and it closes. There’s a prologue by our nana chorus that tidies everything up and closes the play.

Schmaltz! was written and directed by Armie Chardiet, Yoni Gutenmacher, Julia Rotgin, and David Slarskey, all current or former students affiliated with the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania. They began writing Schmaltz! in September 2023, so this is a fresh piece of writing just finding its legs.

The cast: Rita Rehn, Bridget Burke Weiss, Anna Jackson, Georgina Saldana Wonchee, Joshua Horowitz, Joshua Smithline, and David Slarsky.

Tickets ($35, livestream $25) are available for purchase at https://www.frigid.nyc/event/6897:605/. The performance will run approximately 60 minutes April 7-21 at The Wild Project.

New York City Fringe Festival is an open lottery-based festival presented by FRIGID New York, which gives artists an opportunity to let their ingenuity thrive in a bare-bones venue that values freedom of expression and artistic determination. Unusually, 100% of box office proceeds go directly to the artists whose work is being presented. Please bring a little extra cash to put in the tip jar to keep FRIGID working and supporting as many artists as it does.