A cynic tracks the whereabouts of an elusive rabbi who disappears from the community during a period of Jewish penitence and prayer. A poor schlemiel, having stoically endured a lifetime of misery, appears before a heavenly tribunal to receive his due reward — but then is too timid to collect it. An unenlightened traveler confides his marital woes to a fellow sojourner; his hysterically distraught young wife says she's “bored” and — Can one believe it?! — wants to spend time reading. Poet, playwright, journalist and writer of short stories, Isaac Leib Peretz was a pivotal voice in Yiddish literature and in the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment movement of the 19th century that preached expanding secular education for Jews while encouraging them to continue to nurture their Jewish identity. As a writer Peretz both loved — and heartily laughed at — the people he wrote about; his stories are embedded with the fantasies and superstitions of the pious, as well as the philosophical reflections of his own more skeptical mind. Framed by a bare stage, with a few boxes as props, playwright-director Matt Chait plays multiple roles in a masterly rendering of seven of Peretz's irony-laden tales. His transitions are highlighted by designer John Toom's adept lighting and underscored by violinist Lior Kaminetsky's interim klezmer solos. Some of the narratives ramble, and at nearly two and a half hours the program is too long — but overall it's time well spent journeying into this humane and thoughtful writer's perspective. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Wed.-Thurs. 8 p.m.; Sat. 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Oct. 10. (323) 960-7780, plays411.com/peretz; complexhollywood.com.

Saturdays, 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Sept. 10. Continues through Oct. 10, 2011

LA Weekly