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ON STAGE

An occasional update of New York theater openings

By Frank Scheck / February 2, 1995



* HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO ANY JEWS LATELY? (American Jewish Theatre, through Feb. 5): Bruce Jay Friedman, the well-known comic playwright (``Scuba Duba''), author (``The Lonely Guy's Book of Life'') and screenwriter (``Splash''), weighs in with a new effort. The play is set in the not-so-distant future, in which Oliver North is attorney general, Israel has relocated to Miami Beach, and a couple of Jewish friends in an upstate New York town begin to suspect that another Holocaust is in the making.

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Friedman is no stranger to absurdism. His hilarious ``Steambath'' portrayed God as a Puerto Rican steambath attendant. But here he doesn't make his provocative thesis work as a cohesive comedy. Even the playwright seems to be aware that he is treading on shaky ground when he has a ``spectator'' in the audience rise and scold the actors.

Still, there are plenty of outrageous laughs.

* AFTER-PLAY (Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center, through Feb. 26): Actress and comedienne-turned-playwright Anne Meara depicts an after-theater dinner conversation between two married couples who have a long history together.

Other principals include a supremely self-possessed waiter and another couple who are mourning the death of their son.

The expert cast includes such pros as Barbara Barrie and Rue McClanahan, and Meara reveals a fine talent for witty dialogue and incisive characterizations.

The play suffers from sudden awkward shifts into melodrama. Despite the excellent performances and the elegant production it receives here, it never really adds up to much.