“Family Secrets” at the Braid in Santa Monica Review – JWT Peels and Reveals

The actors stun with emotional authenticity—shedding tears at appropriate moments and evoking genuine mirth at others.

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L-R Michael Naishtut, Niloo, Debbie Kaspar and Rosie Moss

Every family harbors secrets that can be embarrassing, dangerous, humiliating, shocking, well-intentioned or even wonderful. The first show of Jewish Women’s Theatre’s 2019 Salon Season reveals plenty of them in Family Secrets that opened January 19 at the Braid in Santa Monica and will travel throughout the Southland until February 13th.

A dozen excellent, evocative stories, carefully selected from over 60 submissions, are performed by four professional and stellar actors—Michael Naishtut, Rosie Moss, Debbie Kaspar, and Niloo. Many of the writers divulge things about their families that have been locked in their memories, as they were too painful or personal to expose to the world.

Rhonda Spinak

“When we came up with the idea for the family secrets theme, we didn’t know whether anyone would have the courage to submit stories,” said JWT’s artistic director Ronda Spinak. “We were overwhelmed by the quality and honesty of the material we received. When reading them, we learned what family secrets can do to people and how they sometimes impact generations.”

L-R Michael Naishtut, Niloo, Debbie Kaspar and Rosie Moss

From the get-go with the opening song, “My Dysfunctional Family,” with Guitar accompaniment by Moss, the show runs a gamut of poignant true stories, ranging widely from amusing to riveting, emotionally gut-wrenching, forbidden and taboo subjects, and more—all told from a Jewish perspective. It is never slow or boring—whether you’ve heard similar stories in the past, or not. The actors stun with emotional authenticity—shedding tears at appropriate moments and evoking genuine mirth at others. One thing is certain—many in the audience will be searching their memories for their own secret stories!

We meet a Kosher Jew who sneaks out to have ham and cheese croissants for breakfast, and the descendant of two generations of con men who needs to discover whether she has a criminal gene. There’s plenty of guilty sex stories, too. A young woman has affairs to defy her strict upbringing and gain a multicultural life. And the daughter of an Orthodox Jewish doctor discovers dad’s secret stash of the worst kind of pornography.

Many of the stories delve into the reasons for their family secrets. Some originated with horrid experiences like Russian pogroms or Nazi terror, and resulted in heartbreaking mixed messages for their progeny

Niloo, Debbie, Rosie, Susan Morgenstern.

“But sometimes family secrets have very happy results,” says Susan Morgenstern, who co-directs the salon with Lisa Cirincione. “Our stories uncover lost relatives from previous marriages and illegitimate births. One American woman hides her Judaism when she travels to Oman to give a speech, but discovers friendship with people she feared. And a family learns that their white, Jewish grandfather is revered and celebrated for being the only doctor to open many health clinics in apartheid South Africa.”

JWT never fails to deliver—this show is highly recommended and selling out fast. Don’t miss the experience!
The Stellar cast of Family Secrets includes

Michael, Niloo, Debbie, Rosie

Michael Naishtut, an international actor who has appeared in New York City, Florida, Los Angeles and Japan. He also appeared at Ensemble Studio Theatre, Theatre for the New City and the NY Public Theatre. He was nominated for an acting ensemble Ovation award for the musical Memphis and toured with Old Jews Telling Jokes. He has also appeared in numerous TV shows. 
Rosie Moss, a television, film and theatre actor who starred in Lifetime/A&E’s miniseries The Rookie. She originated the role of Sarah Kaufman in West Coast Jewish Theatre’s production of FUGU. Other theater performances include Macbethx5 at the Odyssey. Her film and TV work includes Freeform’s Famous in Love, Language Arts Film’s Strangers, and Rebecca Murga’s One Halloween and American Girl

Debbie Kaspar, a two-time Emmy nominated writer and award winning comedian. She has written for such seminal TV shows as Roseanne and The Rosie O’Donnell Show, and has toured the country several times as a comedian. Her book of humorous personal essays A POKE IN THE EYE WITH A SHARP STICK is due out in later 2019, and her new one-woman show is slated to open in New York this year.

Niloo is a full time actor, vocalist, and standup comic in Los Angeles. Her Persian roots make her a valuable vocalist in her musical projects, including international wedding and party band 26 Orchestra; as well as her solo project A Tribe Called Love, which brings popular and EDM music together with conscious lyrics. Niloo produces a monthly underground comedy show called That’s Funny Niloo

Susan Morgenstern, JWT’s producing director and co-director of Family Secrets, recently co-authored and directed 18 Minutes of Fame: A Musical Journey with Barbara Minkus, which has had performances in LA and NYC.  She also works as a consultant show director at Disneyland Parks and Resorts.  Susan has directed numerous JWT salon shows, as well as two of JWT’s solo shows, Annie Korzen: Famous Actress, and Sacred Resistance.
Lisa Cirincione, co-director and an artist-in-residence with JWT, is thrilled to be directing her third production with Susan Morgenstern. Lisa has performed in numerous JWT productions, including Saffron and Rosewater and Uncuffed. You can see her this season on the FX show 9-1-1. Lisa received LA Weekly and LA Drama Critic’s Circle nominations for playing the role of Catherine in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge at Pacific Resident Theatre.

JWT’s The Braid, voted one of the “Best Live Theatres on the Westside” two years in a row by The Argonaut, stages original dramatic performances, contemporary art exhibits, classes, and other events showcasing the diverse community of writers, artists and creators who celebrate Jewish life, one story at a time.

All photographs credit Maureen Rubin

Calendar Details:

Who: The Braid, the art and performance space of Jewish Women’s Theatre, will present Family Secrets, the first show of its 2019 Salon Season, which will reveal plenty of juicy secrets of youthful indiscretions, and often naughty activities that make for a moving, eye-opening and funny show exploring events that have only been whispered about until now.
What:  The premiere, Family Secrets, the first show in JWT’s 2019 Salon Season and the debut showing of Secrets, Maury Ornest’s art, a collection of wondrous paintings created by a man with severe mental illness, who found hope and joy in painting. Additional art talks will take place on Monday, January 28 and Tuesday, January 29 at 6:30 pm preceding 7:30 pm performances of Family Secrets.
When:  Opening night of Family Secrets was Saturday, January 19.  Shows through February 13th.

Where:  The Braid, 2912 Colorado Ave., #102, Santa Monica, CA 90404, and other locations throughout the Southland until February 13th

How:  Tickets for the performance are $45 presale, $50 at the door.

For tickets, times, and Salon locations near you, visit here or call 310-315-1400 to learn more about Family Secrets and the Gallery exhibit.

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