Writer-performer Sandy Wolshin steps onto the stage, every inch the sensible Orthodox rabbi's wife she is, wearing a tasteful dress and jacket, which covers her from neck to ankle. But then, with a whoop, she whips out a set of pompoms and starts a-dancing, a-gyrating, a-prancing, and a-leaping about the stage, throwing her arms in the air, and getting downright dirty to "Let's Get Ready To Ruuuumble!"—that famous Yiddish song familiar to any viewer of Monday Night Football.
For Wolshin is not just any typical Orthodox rabbi's wife; she's also a former L.A. Raiders cheerleader. And before taking on the religious customs and rules of one of the world's most ancient and tradition-bound religions, she was all about dancing for the team, baby. Those weren't matzo balls she was jiggling on that playing field. And the screaming crowds watching the game weren't admiring her recipes for cheese blintzes and gefilte fish.
The long and rocky road Wolshin travels from being a young girl with abandonment issues—a result of a loving but jaw-droppingly irresponsible family—to the world of professional cheerleading, and then to the Orthodox Jewish faith is intrinsically intriguing subject matter. And Wolshin's play is a heartfelt and generally likeable piece of reminiscence that does a fine job of presenting her engaging and energetic personality. The production, credited to co-directors Heidi Crane and Susan Boulanger, is fast-paced and delightfully intimate. Wolshin speaks to us as though we're close friends, and we come away feeling we got a fascinating glimpse into her life.
Yet the show ultimately comes across as a shallow work about a complex person: The story Wolshin recounts offers hints of what motivates her, but these flashes are hidden behind matter-of-fact laundry list renditions of basic chronology. However, the moments in which she discusses her religious beliefs are powerful and sincere, without being preachy or self-righteous. All that's important is that Wolshin is happy with her life—but it's clear that she is also a dancer and gymnast of world-class talent and abilities who has chosen a quiet and humble life of faith over the spotlight.
"The Rabbi and the Cheerleader," presented by and at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A. Thu. 8 p.m., Sat. 9 p.m., Sun. 3 & 7 p.m. Aug. 25-Sep. 25. $21.50-25. (310) 477-2055.