POST: Daniel Cainer's '21st Century Jew' - evaluate your life

What's it about?

In the first skit, the show laid out Daniel's story: “I was raised in a religious household and rebelling against or detaching myself from it over time all the way into my adulthood.” Now imagine that being sung by a grown Englishman with an accent but not necessarily a Michael Bolton voice. The show was a glimpse into his childhood thru short stories that he sang while playing the piano. These stories ranged from his grandfather taking him to see his first cricket game to some interesting selections I’ll tell you about.

What did I experience?

With hurricane Joaquin in full swing, what can I say - it was a bad day to see a show in the city.  With sleet and wind going 130 miles per hour, I arrived at Soho Playhouse drenched but excited. I peeked into the miniature theater, with its intricate detailed gold designs on the seats rather than the sealing. As I waited on line to retrieve my ticket, the booth person stated that the show will be taking place downstairs. My hopes of actually seeing the full theater was shot and instead replaced with... a basement.

I went out to make a phone call to find out where my friend, who decided to join me last minute, was. As I went down into the dungeon-like basement with a bar and couple of chairs and tables, I reminded myself not to judge but give the show the benefit of the doubt. Upon sitting down, a clear distinction was in the attendees, 90% of them were over the age of 50. Though I am not used to that age group on a day-to-day basis, I can assure you that they were quiet the audience. Spontaneous and full of laughter, the older age group indeed made the performance more enjoyable to watch. Their mouths had no filter and an unusual comment by an older gentlemen was “you look just like Willow Smith!” Surprised yet flattered with a big grin on my face, my friend showed up in the nick of time before this man went any further.

The show finally started with Daniel Cainer, the star of the show, and he was nothing of what I expected. He looked and seemed like an everyday Joe, up until he opened his mouth... he had an English accent! As he introduced himself and gave us the history and the concept behind The 21st Century Jew, the only one thing was going through my mind and that was “there are English Jews?” Now, that question may be considered close-minded or just plain dumb, but hey a girl learns something new everyday. 

In the first skit, the show laid out Daniel's story: “I was raised in a religious household and rebelling against or detaching myself from it over time all the way into my adulthood.” Now imagine that being sung by a grown Englishman with an accent but not necessarily a Michael Bolton voice. The show was a glimpse into his childhood thru short stories that he sang while playing the piano. These stories ranged from his grandfather taking him to see his first cricket game to some interesting selections I’ll tell you about.

As a person who enjoys listening/watching someone talk about their life, it was all music to my ears. My mouth was in awe of what my virgin ears heard of the experiences Daniel had gone through - and now he was sitting on stage and telling a room full of people he had never met before. My favorite part of the show was that at the end of each short story/song, a photo would appear on the screen of the main characters in the story: his brother, parents, uncle, and grandparents. It was a simple, but it drew me in. Little did I know, but about 10 minutes into the show I came to the conclusion that the thing was at all times referring back to his Jewish lineage. I think it was an indication that he very much loved his ethnicity but he wanted to evaluate what type of impact it had on his life then and now. 

Daniel announced that the final story/song would be up to the audience to choose. Quickly, an older gentlemen shouted out “Rabbi!” This story was by far the best and happened to be a 100% true story.  The story started off with a Rabbi in a community neighboring the hometown of Daniel Cainer. Many people looked up to him and held him as an important figure in the Jewish community. But the prominent figure had a deep dark secret; he was addicted to cocaine and prostitutes. I sat there completely shocked of what I just heard, but my friend sitting next to me was giggling the whole entire time.

The rabbi once alone would take out his stash of cocaine (which he placed under his Kippah - the round cap that fits over the top of the head) and snort it, surprising right! Along with his addiction to this drug came the prostitutes, who were very familiar with the naughty Rabbi. Soon enough the community found out along with law enforcement of what the holly Rabbi was really up to. The audience clapped as the story went along and I even joined in adding my own beat. Unfortunately for this Rabbi, his reputation was tarnished and he was ousted from the community, but the Rabbi’s addictions even to this day remain unknown. 

As the show ended 90% of the audience flocked to Daniel where he was seated on the stage. Though I thought to either say hi or take a photo, I realized that it was 8:30pm and hurricane was still in swing. If I did not get my butt home as soon as possible, I would definitely suffer in the horrible weather. 

What I took away from Daniel was to never forget where you come from. History's always been and continues to be apart of a person through lineage. The stories that mom and dad or grandma or grandpa tell to younger family members of the times they remember when culture was beautiful and full of life and then see that their children or grandchildren have lost that feeling, it must be hard to take in. Sure, the 21st century has brought technology and with it millennials who disconnect rather connect. But sometimes, to me, it feels like a loss of who we are as people physically, mentally and emotionally. Are you living life to the fullest?, because at the end of the day we are given one life. 

Daniel Cainer’s 21st Century Jew is exactly that - he reevaluated his life once he hit rock bottom and sought out what went wrong and came to the realization that he was missing a piece of what made him happiest in his life, and it was going with his very religious Jewish grandfather who embodied culture to see his first cricket game. 

- H. Barry


 

Want to see it?

$25 tickets

Daniel Cainer's 21st Century Jew 
Soho Playhouse
thru Oct. 18