Hip Shot: ‘Chaidentity’


Goethe Institut Mainstage, 812 7th St. NW

Remaining Performances:Slash Coleman

Wednesday, July 14, at 10 p.m.
Friday, July 16, at 8 p.m.
Sunday, July 18, at 9 p.m.
Tuesday, July 20, at 10 p.m.

They Say: 'Chai' = 'Life' in Hebrew. Based on his award-winning PBS special, Slash Coleman, the son of a Holocaust survivor, creates a profound and engaging storytelling experience that reaches to the core of Jewish Identity and Jewish Life.

Aaron's Take: Let's clear a few things up first. Starting with our throats. Now say "identity," and you've got the name of the show. This ain't about spiced Indian tea — it's about Jewish people, and one Jewish person (and his family) in particular.

That Jewish person calls himself Slash Coleman, although as with many of the details in his one-man show, it's hard to know for certain whether that's one of those poetic-license things. His mother survived the Holocaust as a girl and moved to Virginia, where she met his father, a carjacking gentile. Out came our protagonist, who over the course of his childhood suppressed and then embraced his Jewish identity.

"Attempting to lighten the darkness with humor is a very Jewish thing," Coleman tells us. "Attempting" is the right word. Coleman gives us nasal Jewish voices, he gives us musical numbers (including semi-mocking renditions of "She Loves You" and "All You Need Is Love" with — Beatles snob here — a few misplaced chords), he gives us wildly implausible stories from his youth. But ultimately, the show feels like something of an apology. "Hey God," he seems to be saying. "Haven't always been a great Jew, have I? But check this out: I've convinced an audience to listen to me riff on my Jewish identity for an hour. Cool trick, huh?"

If you happen to think so–well, he does Bar Mitzvahs.

See It If: You keep Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul on your nightstand.

Skip It If: You just didn't get the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man.

  • shawnak

    Saw the show last night...still moved to tears and laughter in remembering--and that's what Coleman's show is about. His unique perspective as the descendant of a Holocaust survivor, mixed with his southern and Italian roots, make for a truly American story. His dramatic talents bring it to life, honoring not only his family but all those that perished.

    Coleman seemed humbled and analytical of his previous performances--qualities representative of a true artist.

    I hope he tells this story again and again.

  • Geraldine Buckley

    I have just come back from seeing Slash Coleman’s show. Apparently he has completely reworked it since the first performance last week based on feedback he received. I sat with people who had been there at the opening night – which they enjoyed – but they said that this version was infinitely better.

    I don’t know the person who posted an earlier comment – Chris Van Deborn - but I agree with their opinion that Slash told his tale in the manner of the storytelling genre.

    There were no Beatles songs.

    What there was a deeply personal story of how a sensitive kid recognized he was different, knew through his holocaust-survivor mother that the difference was painful and must be kept secret, and yet as he grew to adulthood embraced and has finally accepted his heritage in all its complexity.

    To me, someone who is not Jewish, this was more than a Jewish story (although the light Slash shines on the coping mechanisms of survivors was fascinating) it is a modern day parable that will resonate with all those who have had to come to terms with a painful past in order to sort out their present and have hope for the future.

    Slash told his story simply and from a deep place within himself and so it touched a deep place within this audience member – and I don’t believe I was alone.

    I would suggest that because this show has been radically reworked it should reviewed again.

    And I would encourage anyone who likes well crafted, poignant stories masterfully told to see Chaidentity.

  • Sheffy

    I’m a return Slash customer because he never fails to disappoint. Slashtopher’s raw storytelling talents are on display—he can captivate your attention for a whole hour, without the flash and glitz of a SpeakEasy production. Chaidentity is less of an act than his previous entries—it’s a very personal dialogue that feels genuine and from the heart. Through skillfully channeling voices of his grandparents, father, mother, rabbi and half a dozen other influences in his life, you can start to hear his own voice emerge.

    I couldn’t disagree more with Aaron and Bobby’s impressions of what Slash was doing. He is discovering who he is—from a culture almost lost in the Holocaust and almost lost again trying to belong in America with a self-imposed silence. This story is not exactly one you’d want to dilute with laugh lines.

    It’s too bad this review or maybe the late hour kept the crowd pretty paltry when I went to the show on Wednesday—but we were treated to an intimate experience. He says the show changes with each performance and alas most of the music was cut out (no Beatles—thanks a lot Aaron!). He did share with us a beautiful nigun, a musical Jewish prayer that he explained was wordless to keep it untethered from rational thought.

  • Gerri Greenberg

    Slash has a great voice and the Jewish songs that he sang really took me to a new place. I really enjoyed this show immensely. It was profound and spiritual and very different from the shallow fluff that I've seen mostly here at the fringe.

  • Chris Van Deborn

    Aaron & Bobby, I was at the same show you were at on Thursday night and I have to say I totally disagree with you.

    You kind of missed the point in the minutia of the details.

    I applaud Slash as an artist. I thought the show was fantastic and I think you'll find that he actually becomes an important national voice in our community.(I hope you bite your tongues when that happens because I've been following his career and it's happening) I've seen 3 of his shows at the Cap Fringe and each one was completely different.

    Coming from a Jew who was raised in Kentucky, I think his story speaks directly to an important under-represented voice in the Jewish Community. In fact, it's a silent voice that needs to be heard more.

    1) Unlike his 2008 fringe show "Slash Coleman has Big Matzo Balls," (which I wasn't a huge fan of) Slash took a new direction with storytelling. If your not familiar with the medium the story might fall flat. But I base that more on your ignorance of the medium than anything else.

    If you're used to listening to pop music and you go to the opera, you're just not going to get it. Storytelling isn't stand-up comedy, it's not theatre, and it's not a history lesson. Google Donald Davis or Bill Harley if you need direction.

    2. As Woody Allen said, "Why ruin a good story with truth?"

    3) I don't think the Beatles songs moved the story along but I know "All you need is Love," was high in the charts during the time period that Slash mentioned. I thought it was appropriate to have the song(s) in the show. (It was actually #4 during the Summer of Love).

    4) Slash is a Jewish Johnny Cash. His voice is unique and he sings like Leonard Cohen and if you're used to the run of the mill pop voice, you're just not going to enjoy his work. The sound in the Goethe is incredible and it really showcased a fine performance.

    See It If: If you want to witness what the true process of healing and reconciliation is like for the Jewish people.

    Skip It If: Your too cerebral to see the value in a fresh perspective on the universal theme of identity.

  • Bobby Fringe

    I saw the first performance on Thursday. the single best description is mediocre. Coleman is a mediocre performer. The script is mediocre. His guitar playing is medicore. Now that’s not necessary a bad review for the fringe, but it isn’t a great one. His family story has its moments, but he hasn’t put all the material together in a way that highlights more about the interesting people and connects everything with a thread other than him. It would help, perhaps, if he knew that Zachary Taylor was not a civil war general and if he got his dates straight. He dated something to 1933 that happened in 1943, or so it appeared from the context. Neither error was a biggie, but they are indicative of material not worked over sufficiently.

    See it if the basic Jewish family story appeals, but don’t go out of your way.