The Board of Directors and National Council of the American Gathering opened their first national meeting with a visit to The National Yiddish Theatre to see a special performance of Kleynkunst, a play about the nightlife in Warsaw between the wars. Herewith the New York Times review of that play:

At a Yiddish Cabaret, Hope, Despair and Song

Published: December 13, 2007
Across an emotional spectrum from saucy irreverence, high spirits and nostalgia to the bitterest despair and back to hope, “Kleynkunst!” revisits the little-known but vibrant Yiddish cabaret that flourished in Warsaw from the early 1920s until it disappeared by Nazi design in the ghetto of that city, where Jews in 1928 constituted 30 percent of the population.

Ushering in the 93rd consecutive season of the National Yiddish Theater — Folksbiene, this illuminating, ultimately touching show, playing at the JCC in Manhattan, delivers its account through song and sketch.

Researched and written by Rebecca Joy Fletcher and performed by Ms. Fletcher and Stephen Mo Hanan under the direction of Michael Montel to the able accompaniment of Bob Goldstone, its pianist, musical director and arranger, “Kleynkunst!” — “Little Art” — is presented mainly in English. Its Yiddish is complemented when necessary by English and Russian supertitles.

Its frail underlying story, played out against a horrific historical background, takes two cabaret artists through the years, using material dating from as early as 1868 (“Whiskey!,” a toast to drink) to 1940 (“Minutn fun Bitokhn” or “Moments of Believing”), a wrenching expression of hope in the midst of the ghetto’s darkness. The song “Krokhmalne Gas” (“Krochmalna Street”) expresses tender memories of an old but impoverished neighborhood: “How dear it was” … “I would give life and limb for you.”

But Poland’s virulent anti-Semitism gives the show its edge. The principal sketch, “The Last Jew in Poland,” skewers an anti-Semitic Polish officer coming to grips with the realization of what the Jews mean to the country. The song “Oy, Madagaskar!” imagines the consequences of a 1937 government exploration of sending Poland’s Jews to Madagascar.

As “Kleynkunst!” nears its conclusion, Warsaw’s cabaret has been confined to the Jewish ghetto, where the Nazis use it to distract the population from impending doom, and the woman in the performing team is singing — and starving — in the streets.

Mr. Hanan seems intermittently to be channeling Jimmy Durante, Groucho Marx or Al Jolson (whom he once portrayed), but Ms. Fletcher, perhaps because of her immersion in the material, delivers a richly rounded and eventually heartbreaking performance.

“Kleynkunst!” runs through Dec. 30 at the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue, at 76th Street; (212) 279-4200,