Alex Edelman has built quite the reputation over the last few years, with sold-out comedy shows and knock-’em-dead late-night performances, honing material for a Broadway debut that does his reputation proud.

Just For Us, opening tonight at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre and running through Aug. 19, might seem as unlikely as the WTF story that forms the basis of Edelman’s performance. A stand-up comedy routine without the usual visual and special-effects embellishments that accompany trips to Broadway, Just For Us lands on the theatrical stage with no need for anything but sheer story-telling bravado, energetic direction (by the late Adam Brace, with Alex Timbers credited as creative consultant) and a terrific yarn.

The story Edelman tells in Just For Us – a story Edelman assures us is true – finds the Jewish comic, raised Orthodox, still observant, attending a smallish White Supremacist neo-Nazi gathering in a Queens apartment. Why he’s there and what he hopes to accomplish is the stuff of the show, but basically he was invited – by mistake – and decides to take the subway ride from Manhattan to Queens as a goof, or out of curiosity, or in the egotistical confidence that this very likable guy could win over a few hearts and minds with humor and affability.

What Edelman doesn’t say is that he probably knew the meeting would make a great story and fine material for a – this – stand-up routine. And it does. What begins as a lark, albeit one with jitters, turns ugly fast, though Edelman finds the humor throughout, from the benign-seeming, vaguely grouchy, jigsaw-puzzle-playing old lady who serves as the meeting’s door greeter, to the attractive young woman that Edelman quickly and foolishly hopes might be a rom-com meet-cute match.

Natural storyteller that he is, Edelman uses the unlikely anecdote as a winding roadmap, with excursions through his Orthodox Jewish upraising – an extended riff on his family’s sole attempt at a Christmas.celebration is a highlight – and to his ongoing struggles with what it means to be Jewish, what it means to be white (despite what those Queens antisemites say) and whether empathy has, or should have, limits.

A raconteur who’s honed this material to a flawless conversational eloquence, Edelman has a remarkable ability to walk right up to the abyss, peer in and walk away with jokes to tell – jokes that neither diminish nor romanticize what he’s seen. Among the teachings of his Jewish upbringing is empathy, and even sitting outnumbered in that racist, antisemitic gathering he struggles to remain true to those values. That struggle provides Edelman with a mighty intellectual conundrum, a worthy and funny debate of the heart and a show that can stand proud on Broadway.

One final note: Brace, Edelman’s director and longtime collaborator, died following a short illness just last month at the age of 43. Just For Us would have been his Broadway debut, and now stands as a fitting and loving tribute.

Title: Just For Us
Venue: Broadway’s Hudson Theatre
Written And Performed By: Alex Edelman
Director: Adam Brace
Creative Consultant: Alex Timbers
Running time: 75 min (no intermission)


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