Money, mitzvah, and the music of Neil Diamond

By Kelly, Group Sales & Services Manager

Let me begin by saying that if I received a check for $56,000 addressed to me in the mail, there would be no question about whether or not to deposit it – just questions on how to spend it.

Clearly, I am not as morally noble (or – depending on who you ask – racked with Jewish guilt) as Josh Cohen, who is faced with this dilemma in the delightfully funny and charming Off-Broadway production of “The Other Josh Cohen,” now playing at the SoHo Playhouse.

Josh, your typical 30-something “everyman,” is perpetually down on his luck.  Traumatized by Valentines Days past, unlucky in everything (especially love), and most recently robbed of all his worldly possessions (except for one CD – Neil Diamond III – which he got for free), Josh Cohen wonders if fate has finally stopped dumping on his life when he receives a check addressed to him in the mail for $56,000 from an Irma Cohen.  This check poses both incredible opportunity and immediate anxiety – though this money could help finally change Josh’s life for the better – will his nagging conscience allow him to actually use it, or will fate be fickle as usual?  With the assistance of a Darth Vader phone (a gift from Josh’s neighbors), he seeks out anyone who can help fill in the blanks – his parents, his sister, and 12 rings later, Irma Cohen herself.

As Josh seeks answers, the audience is presented with Josh’s story told by two reliable sources – current-day “Narrator Josh,” and “Real Josh,” who re-enacts the events that took place one year prior as he interacts with his future self.  Glimpses into Josh’s traumatic romantic life, questionable Jewish lineage, and unfulfilled dreams of being a writer are interspersed with the discovery of the true recipient of the check – and how Josh’s hilarious response to hitting even lower than his usual rock-bottom miraculously lead him to a happy ending where fate finally affords him the ultimate payoff.

David Rossmer and Steve Rosen (who play Narrator Josh and Real Josh respectively), are not only the stars of this wild tale, they are also the playwrights, lyricists and composers of the piece.  No strangers to the Broadway world, Rossmer recently left the cast of the fantastic “Peter and the Starcatcher,” where he played loveable and always-hungry orphan Ted, and Rosen has previously been seen in shows such as “Spamalot” and the recent revival of “Guys & Dolls.”  Both are extremely likeable and devilishly funny as Josh Cohen (past and present), and play well opposite one another.  Special mention must be made of Rossmer’s well-rounded musical skills – the combination of his singing voice, guitar playing, and well-placed injection of 4 violin notes made him even more endearing…if that’s possible.

The delightful duo of Josh & Josh are complemented by a background of shape-shifting ensemble actors – Vadim Feichtner (who also serves as music director), Hannah Elless, and Ken Triwush – who not only round out the cast of craziness with ease, but double as onstage band members and backup singers.  Also featured is Kate Wetherhead, whose powerful comedic presence enriches the story ten-fold.  Playing a myriad of roles including Josh’s mother, sister, lesbian neighbor, and more (she is billed as “A Lot of People” – rightly so), Wetherhead is a bright spot in an already delightfully sunny production, and is a rising comedic star to keep an eye out for in the future.  (Admittedly, one of my main reasons for wanting to see this show in the first place was Wetherhead, as I am a huge fan of the web series she stars in and co-created/co-writes with Andrew Keenan-Bolger (currently in Newsies) called “Submissions Only,” a tongue-in-cheek view into the lives of theatre actors in New York City.  Be sure to check it out at http://submissionsonly.com/.)

Josh Cohen’s world is brought to life with expert ease by the show’s director Ted Sperling, whose use of the intimate setting of the SoHo playhouse was masterfully done.  The show’s score is fun and fresh, with witty lyrics that will have you laughing out loud while enjoying the nod to Neil Diamond’s infectious style.  The plot is based on a true story, which just adds to the overall enjoyment of the experience.  All in all, it was a remarkable evening of laughter and heart – and a show I would happily see again.  So – do nice guys ever really finish first?  They do if they’re Josh Cohen…and no one could be happier for his first-place finish than me.

“The Other Josh Cohen” is in a limited run until November 11th at the SoHo Playhouse located at 15 Vandam St., so snatch up your tickets now while there’s still time!  If you’d like assistance with tickets, you can contact me at kshoemaker@newyorkguest.com, or call the New York Guest office at 212-302-4019.

 

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