Alex Edelman in “Just for Us” Review – Who is Us?

Alex Edelman in JUST FOR US - Photo by Matthew Murphy
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Alex Edelman had to wait until he achieved success in the UK – where he was named the Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2014 – before that success would follow him to the U.S. He has developed three shows since 2014, with his first drawing more than a quick glance. “Millennial” (2014-15) was followed by “Everything Handed to You” in 2015-16 and JUST FOR US in 2018-20. JUST FOR US opened off Broadway in 2022 – and then finally landed Edelman on Broadway in 2022, where it was selected as the New York Times Critics Pick in 2023. It took a while, but JUST FOR US has finally arrived in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum in 2023.

Alex Edelman – Photo by Matthew Murphy

What is so special about JUST FOR US? Edelman has a unique very personal style in which he focuses on his experiences and brings them to the audience with charm and an artful use of pauses. His primary theme in JUST FOR US studies Judaism from Edelman’s perspective and offers lots of chuckles punctuating some underlying serious issues. For example, just for his own curiosity and edification, Edelman decides to go to a meeting of a group he later terms the “Nerf Nazis,” with a membership of 16 – not counting the one Jew in their midst. But then there is that pretty young thing who attracts his attention and might be worth saving. When someone in the (inner) circle opines that “Jews are sneaky and everywhere,” Edelman can hardly disagree.

Alex Edelman – Photo by Matthew Murphy

But Edelman is accustomed to being in the silent minority, having grown up in the racist part of Boston – apparently the entire city – in an Orthodox Jewish family. Edelman zips through lots of childhood events, possibly to be expected by a man who describes himself as from the “overmedicated ADHD generation.” When he relates his very first Christmas – his mother apparently wanted to help a non-Jewish lady friend who was in deep mourning and lamenting the loss of family members and “no Christmas this year” – the very Christian holiday leaves an indelible impression in his Orthodox home, and especially in his Yeshiva.

Alex Edelman – Photo by Matthew Murphy

After the show, Edelman’s talk-back was especially interesting. He proved to be as funny “off stage” as on. He also admitted to changing the script for JUST FOR US multiple times over the course of a few years. He emphasized his need to escape the borscht-belt schtick type of comedy and instead let the audience in on his own very genuine experiences as he searches for his identity in the world. The end result is a very funny, moving, and often poignant set of stories about that journey. To quote Edelman, “I love being in literal dialogue with the audience and the world around me.” He has definitely succeeded in his goal.

Directed by Adam Brace, who died in April 6, 2023, JUST FOR US is a powerful testimony for inclusiveness and a thought-provoking play which almost sneaks in under the audience members’ radar. Edelman recalled that “Adam and I laughed so much making this show…I hope it can be both a challenge and an escape.” This is definitely a “don’t-miss” show which will make you laugh, occasionally get a bit teary-eyed, and – above all – think!

JUST FOR US funs though November 26, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Mark Taper Forum is located in the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Tickets start at $40. For information and reservations, call 213-628-2772 or go online.


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