Campy `Jewish Girls'

Susannah Perlman and her vaudeville troupe challenge stereotypes

Arts

November 03, 2005|By KARA WEDEKIND | KARA WEDEKIND,SUN REPORTER

Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad is not a Fox television special or the newest spinoff from the Girls Gone Wild video industry. It is a comedy-burlesque-spoken word hybrid that aims to challenge stereotypes of Jewish women through song, dance and parody of Fiddler on the Roof.

The show's creator is New York-based singer/comedian Susannah Perlman, whose transition from member of the cheery group Up with People to the producer of this show's Hasidic striptease gives the show's title a little added significance.

Perlman and her vaudeville troupe will bring what she has dubbed a neo-Catskills revue to the Creative Alliance at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday.

Vanessa Hidary, whose work has been featured on HBO, will perform spoken-word poetry, including her "What Does Jewish Look Like to You." Comedy Central alum Ophira Eisenberg will do standup, and Michelle Citrin will play her acoustic folk pop.

And then there are the NY Burlesque Queens Schlep Sisters, Minnie Tonka and Darlinda Just Darlinda, who will be the ones stripping off the traditional Hasidic black clothes.

Perlman explained the eclectic show's appeal. "I'm all about finding your own path, your own way and your own audience. And there is an audience for us. There is a need, and there is a void." She paused before adding, "It's an odd void."

Perlman sees their niche in the art world as odd because even though the subject matter is narrow - Jewish women - the audience is usually pretty diverse.

She then rattled off a list of the reasons why audience members have said that this show works. "Women love it, whether they're straight or gay, because it's very pointed about image. Gay men love it because it has this campy kitschiness and color. Straight guys like it because it has hot girls."

But she feels that the show is really for anyone who is looking for something that diverges from the norm.

"People come to the theater and come to shows because they want to see something. They want to see something that jumps out at them. And I feel that that's part of my job, to give that color."

That color comes in part from Perlman's onstage persona, The Goddess Perlman, who emcees the show and goes through a series of quick costume changes between each act. Perlman switches outfits so often she has started comparing herself to Cher.

"Now I'm saying that I am like a combination of Cher and Mrs. Partridge because I drive the bus - that would be the Honda Civic."

But, while the show has elements of kitsch and comedy, it is first a showcase for women with a broad range of talents who defy religious, cultural and gender expectations.

"This is just my way of saying there is an alternative and there are other women who are speaking in order to be heard," Perlman said.

"Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad" is at the Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave., tomorrow and Saturday. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15. For more information, call 410-276-1651 or go to creativealliance.org.

kara.wedekind@baltsun.com

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