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Actress: 'JAP' No Slap in the Facials
"West Side Story"?
Upper East Side Story!
But wait - before the p.c. police are called out, Isabel Rose rises to its defense. "It's okay," says the singer/actress/writer of the tasteless tag given Jewish women who consider "charge!" cards a call to the mall. "This is about dashing stereotypes," not enforcing them.
She should know. As author of The JAP Chronicles, Rose rose to prominence on the literary ladder last year for her novel look at camp life among the elite. It was all, she says, an attempt to debunk the bunk myths that surround the good life at any place where vanities of the bonfire include toasting kosher marshmallows.
It was a novel about those women who spent weekends taking Polaroids of their favorite kitchen appliances as pin-ups to pine for should they land the man of their dreams.
Sundays their prints did come, but it was after the photos faded that the real negatives about living such a life developed.
Rose, the self-described "chick singer," has lit out for the stage now, where "JAP Chronicles, the Musical" opens Wednesday, May 3, at New York's Perry Street Theater.
Street theater of the upper stations of Jewish female life? Check her own history: Daughter of a history professor and a classical pianist, Rose was reared in a loving Jewish New York environment that led to Yale (summa cum laude) and then an MFA at Bennington College.
Marriage was a third degree - one which can be summed up summa cum gone.
But on her own, she's not alone, sharing Shabbat dinners and everyday life with her young daughter.
The performer who was named "Up-and-Coming Actress" at the San Diego Film Festival for her "Anything but Love," is anything but complacent. After all, what she's got on stage these days is not a panty raid, but a memory raid of days at camp, stressing that her withering look at Willow Lake Camp's 100th anniversary reunion is fictional.
Should her former campmates and friends be afraid, be very afraid of what comes out of this or her book, due to be published in paperback a week after the musical's premiere?
No way, she says of the fictional campfires.
Is this chick lit-cum-chick script?
"No," she replies firmly. "It's theater."
When bad things happen to kosher campers: Returning for her own camp reunion in Maine some time back, Rose had thought that most of her former friends had lived life in the intervening years with their lifestyles revolving around the state's initials: ME.
"Well, surprise, surprise," she writes on her blog. "That's not exactly what I found," thinking that "I'd find a smattering of career girls, but a greater number of full-time moms who used their prodigious talents and energy in creating magnificently decorated homes, organizing their social lives and family lives, planning fabulous vacations and doing good work," all "with access to good shopping."
Seems like the bottom fell out of the Big Brown Bag.
Homogeneity, she explains, high-tailed it out of town.
Bringing them back together in a fictional ensemble on stage is actress Rose, playing all six parts - well, she once did star in a national tour of "Six Degrees of Separation" opposite Marlo Thomas.
But that girl is different from these girls on stage as they sing and speak as … one.
And that one, insists Rose of her own life as we speak, is no JAP. "I don't drink, smoke, party - I'm a Mom who needed to expel this image."
Imagine her disappointment when her novel came out with its alarming title without sounding alarm bells in the business. Although garnering a variety of reviews, "It wasn't reviewed in The New York Times; it was hard to be taken seriously," she says.
She had to face facts, not facials, with the critical press. But the most important audiences pressed on - readers snatched up some 50,000 copies of The JAP Chronicles.
And now, she's out to show that her show is not about spoiled spaced-out Jews with jangling tennis bracelets who think Lionel Hampton is a weekend escape in the country.
With a new CD coming out and an engagement set for Lincoln Center this fall, Rose redefines the meaning of JAP. "I am," she proclaims deftly, a walking, talking dictionary of defiance, "a Jewish American Powerhouse!"• • •
Who says the Jews dominate Broadway? What a shameful stereotype!
Besides, everyone knows it's off-Broadway.
Just take a look at the marquee lights this week and you'll understand that it's hard to pass over Jewish topics on the New York stage.
Besides Rose's show, theater is chronicling other Jewish tales of woe and whoopee.
For landscapers, there's "A Jew Grows in Brooklyn," at ATA Theater; "Jewtopia" continues its perfect-world scenario at Westside Theatre; while "Sandra Bernhard: Everything Bad & Beautiful" and Kabbalistic, is performed at the Daryl Roth Theater.
And, finally, there's "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," which while not expressly Jewish, has a familiar ring to it.
Just ask anyone who's ever stood under a chupah.