Brooklyn's infighting Hasidim meet the Bard in "Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish," Eve Annenberg's exuberant new feature.
Openhearted and kvetching, the comedy filters a very particular slice of contemporary New York through Shakespeare's star-crossed tale and a bit of kabbalistic magic. One joy of the gawky-lovely film is that it probably represents the most extensive use of Yiddish on the big screen in decades.
Annenberg ("Dogs: The Rise and Fall of an All-Girl Bookie Joint") built the movie around nonprofessional actors who grew up in Williamsburg's insular community of ultra-Orthodox Jews and learned English only after leaving the fold. The filmmaker included, they're all playing versions of themselves as well as Shakespearean counterparts.
Annenberg portrays Juliet's nurse and Ava a jaded ER nurse and secular Jew who's working on a midlife master's degree. She enlists the help of three twentysomething dropouts from Orthodoxy for an academic project: updating a 1939 translation of Shakespeare from old to modern Yiddish.