Carcass is a play about Jews yelling at each other. Avrush (David Greenspan) yells at his stepdaughter Reyz’l (Rebekah Levin) for being like her “shrew” mother Brayne (Kathryn Rossetter). Reyz’l yells at her stepbrother Mend’l (Alvin Keith) for smelling like animal hides. And Brayne yells at Avrush for being a drunk. It’s enough to drive Abe Foxman to antisemitism.
Written by the Russian playwright Peretz Hirshbein in 1905, Carcass has been inexplicably revived the New World Theatre Project—a real shame, since there are few opportunities to see Yiddish theater in New York. The press release informs us that Hirshbein’s work focuses “more on mood than plot” but fails to mention that the mood in question is irritation. Ostensibly about the failings of Avrush, whose alcoholism and inability to hold himself accountable for his actions has ruined his family, Carcass amounts to little more than an eighty-minute assault on its audience’s tolerance for poor imitations of Old World Jewish accents and limp metaphors—by my count, the title word appears eleven times in the script.
Mr. Greenspan, apparently a respectable actor (he has won five Obies), gestures his way through a rather embarrassing performance—sure, Jews talk with their hands, but not that much—and his co-stars fare little better, with Mr. Keith channeling some vaguely offensive combination of Forrest Gump and Sling Blade and Ms. Levin shrieking with such relentless intensity that she makes Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Susie Greene seem like the Queen Mother. Likely this is partially the fault of the material, which provides no opportunity for anything like sympathy, or empathy, or humor. Still, no one comes out of Carcass looking good.