WHY is it that so many comic actors, comedy writers and directors are Jewish? And why does a lot of comedy sound Jewish although it’s not necessarily meant to be?
Douglas Sills, who is playing the lead role of Gomez in The Addams Family, playing through July 1 at the DCPA Buell Theater, has a theory.
“Growing up in a Jewish home, you often hear irony and sarcasm as basic condiments of conversation, and so many writers have inculcated this into their comedy.”
Sills, a stage, screen and television actor, with a varied list of credits from Shakespeare to musical comedy, says he’s enjoying the role of Gomez.
The character is the odd Addam’s family patriarch, who underneath all the macabre trimmings, is just another adoring husband and loving father who wants “shalom bayit” — peace in the home and happiness for his children. (Never mind that the children have monsters for pets and the family’s butler is a zombie!)
There’s also the familiar anxiety over meeting the potential in-laws: normal, all-American people, contrasted to the eccentric, expressive, foreign-rooted Addamses. This scenario smacks of the intermarriage issues faced by many Jewish families.
In this way, Sills agrees that the touring production of The Addam’s Family could subtly be a Jewish show.
SILLS grew up in a Jewish household in Detroit. He describes that Jewish community as “unusual in that it’s very big, but very, very tight, very close.”
His family was moderately observant: Shabbat candles every Friday night and big family holiday dinners.
“It was a great way to grow up. We learned a sense of responsibility to each other and an appreciation for ritual. It gave us a sense of belonging.”
Sills was involved in theater throughout his childhood, but after college, he felt he should follow the path of others in his family and go to law school for something “to fall back on.”
He scored 99% on his LSATs and was planning to attend Stanford Law School, when his father realized how important acting was to his son.
His father encouraged him to wholeheartedly pursue theater with the knowledge that he could go to law school any time in the future.
Sills’ supportive father passed away a few years ago, but he left the family business to his children. Sills runs the business while keeping busy on the stage — the best of both worlds for him, he says.
Copyright © 2012 by the Intermountain Jewish News