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Alex Edelman Just for Us at Menier Chocolate Factory

After a highly successful off-Broadway run, Alex Edelman has brought his one-man show Just for Us to the Menier Chocolate Factory and yours truly managed to cadge an invite.

Alex Edelman - Just For Us - photo by Alastair Muir.
Alex Edelman – Just For Us – photo by Alastair Muir.

I have to admit I hadn’t heard of Alex before the show, but I did know he was American and Jewish so was ready for an interesting 90 minutes. In fact, what I saw was a masterclass in comedic storytelling and social observation. Alex is active on social media – I followed him immediately after the show – and has received a lot of the usual Twitter trolling from those tweeters whose ancestry stopped at Neanderthal. Rather than let it get to him, Alex used their venom against them, and the result is a wonderful story, which over-arches the entire production, of the time he went to an event hosted and attended by a group of white people with questions about their whiteness. Yes, the Jewish boy from Boston and NYC was at a meeting that was basically a bunch of white supremacists complaining about, among other things, the Jewish conspiracy.

As he tells the story of the meeting and his interest in an attendee called Chelsie, Alex drops in tales about his life and family and growing up in very Conservative Boston as an Ashkenazi Jew. We learned of his Olympian brother, his time at school, his friendships and the one time his family celebrated Christmas – and he’s right, the picture of him and his brother on Christmas morning is adorable.

The Menier stage is quite wide, and Alex completely owned it from the moment he arrived telling us about a gorilla to the moment he took his well-deserved bows. He moved around – a lot – in fact, he rarely stayed still. Whether this was his own energy or the work of Director Adam Brace I don’t know as everything seemed so natural and fitting with my perception of Alex’s character. He is also an awesome storyteller. We loved him when he first appeared and continued to hang on his every word, no matter where his mind took him. It would be possible for the deviations and flights away from the main story – the white supremacist meeting remember – to be a bit irritating but they weren’t. Each time we went off the topic, it was worthwhile, and we all knew we would be back soon. I’m not Jewish so some of the references could have been lost on me, but Alex is fully inclusive so Jew or Gentile, we knew what he was describing and could appreciate the humour. We also learned words of power. Forget the spells of Hogwarts, Alex introduced us to a four-word phrase that has the ability to change the world, and for that, I have to thank him.

Sometimes, I leave a show disappointed wishing I had the time back. In the case of Alex Edelman: Just for Us I did leave the theatre wishing I had the 90 minutes I’d spent watching back. But only because it would mean I could see the show again. Anyone who can make a rom-com out of a meeting of white supremacists is someone very special, and Alex Edelman is that man. An awesome production from a true master of comedy art.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Just For Us takes the audience through hilarious anecdotes from Alex Edelman’s life – his Olympian brother AJ, an unconventional holiday season, and a gorilla that can do sign language – but at its centre is an astonishing and frighteningly relevant story. After a string of antisemitic abuse is directed at Edelman online, he decides to covertly attend a gathering of White Nationalists in New York City and comes face to face with the people behind the keyboards. The result is a hair-raising encounter that gives Just For Us its title and final, jaw-dropping twist.

The production reunites Edelman with director Adam Brace – who have collaborated since 2014.

11th January 2023 – 26th February 2023

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