IF COWS COULD FLY, written and performed by Allan Merovitz, directed by Ronald Weihs. Artword Theatre (75 Portland). Runs to March 12, Wednesday-Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday 2 and 7:30 pm, no evening show March 12. $20, stu/srs $15, Sunday 2-for-1. 408-2783. Rating: NN
Tracing his ancestry back to its eastern European roots, storyteller/musician Allan Merovitz uses his family to play out several strands of the 20th-century Jewish experience in Europe and Canada. Though his charm and songs give some life to If Cows Could Fly, Merovitz has stretched the material far too thin to fill a two-act, two-hour show.
Its strength lies in the first half, with tales of shtetls, immigration to Canada and moving Yiddish melodies that frequently eclipse the narrative in emotional strength. The music gets a wonderful backup from Anne Lederman, whose engaging fiddling ranges from Hebraic melodies to Ottawa Valley and country/western toe-tappers.
The storytelling is sometimes too sketchy to resonate, especially once Merovitz locates the audience in his hometown of Smiths Falls, and director Ronald Weihs fails to maintain sufficient dramatic tension in pacing or performance. As one tale piles onto the next, the show's structure unravels and leaves us glutted with too many episodic moments.