A cascade of dangling lights greeted us at the elegant lobby of the Museum of the City of New York, at 103rd Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan.
That elegance turned into laughter as we reached Roz Chast’s exhibit: CARTOON MEMOIRS.
Our guide, E.Y. Zipris, exuded an impish glee showing us the many works of award-winning Roz Chast. Born in Brooklyn in 1954, Chast is a staff cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine.
We saw New Yorker covers, individual cartoons, and her Memoir “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” – a moving yet darkly funny look at caring for her aging parents.
Chast’s people are defined by their anxieties, obsessions and quirks. She shows that neurosis is not only funny, but normal. As E.Y. put it, “She is the shadow and the echo of our inner lives.”
Chast did a larger-than- life poster for the exhibit called “Subway Sofa.” It shows six New Yorkers squashed together on a couch in a subway car! Being squashed on the subway is part of every New Yorker’s life. Chast’s situations often reflect everyday city life.
Our next exhibit was NEW YORK’S YIDDISH THEATRE: FROM BOWERY TO BROADWAY. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, millions of Jews from different European countries came to the city’s Lower East Side. What unified them was the Yiddish language.
In 1904, Jacob P. Adler, a Yiddish actor from Russia, founded the first Yiddish theatre on Grand Street. It quickly became the immigrant community’s favorite pastime, adding fun and glamour to a sometimes dreary existence. By the mid-1920s, the city boasted 14 Yiddish theatres.
We saw period photos, costumes and posters of actors. As time went on, Yiddish theatre became more sophisticated – and New York’s Yiddish theatre is alive and well today.
We left the museum realizing what both exhibits had in common. One was a hilarious cartoonist from a Brooklyn Jewish community; the other, immigrant Jews who used Yiddish theatre to create a community. “Let me entertain you!” was the rallying cry for both.
To be thoroughly entertained, go to www.mcny.org or call 212-534- 1672.