The Life and Times of Jewboy Cain: A Musical Novel for the Stage | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Life and Times of Jewboy Cain: A Musical Novel for the Stage 

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Whenever Jeff Dorchen returns to Chicago from his current home in Los Angeles, I'm reminded of the enormous hole he left in our performance scene. Keenly intelligent and politically audacious, he's an actor, singer, musician, and writer, creating everything from full-length plays to folk tunes. All these talents come together in his "one-man play with songs," The Life and Times of Jewboy Cain, which premiered here in 1995. The title character is an aging, cranky, disillusioned singer waiting in his shoddy home for the arrival of the great folk historian Alan Lomax. Instead his visitor turns out to be a "skinny little greasy teenager" named Albert Lomack, who's rented Cain's apartment out from under him. Awaiting eviction, Cain serves up "tequila sensitives" and recounts the story of his life, marked by a constant struggle to find his roots as a folk musician and an Orthodox Jew. These dual passions often collide, especially when he's playing gigs on Shabbat. "We're supposed to welcome Shabbos like a bride," he says. "Now how happy am I gonna be to see her if when she comes she takes away half my revenue?" A committed but toothless socialist, Cain grasps at any protest song, rewriting the Phil Ochs classic "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" to label Dick Gephardt, Carol Moseley Braun, and Bill Clinton "two-cent butt whores." Once he even warmed up the crowd at a Joan Armatrading concert with a rendition of the Last Poets' "Niggers Are Scared of Revolution." An ingenious satire of one-man biographical dramas, The Life and Times of Jewboy Cain is packed with as much musical entertainment as political venom. Also on the bill are films by Tom Palazzolo and Miki Greenberg's Songs of Tenderness and Love, in which 20 singers traipse through "the story of love from start to finish." Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000. Saturday, May 24, 7:30 PM. $15.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tamara Staples.

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