Crowd favorite Delancey lives again on stage

“Crossing Delancey” is one of those movies American Jews claim as their own. The gentle 1988 comedy about Izzy, a modern Jewish woman who meets and ultimately falls for Sam the pickle salesman, had real resonance for Jews: the wise Yiddishe grandmother, an old-fashioned matchmaker, a taut love triangle and Amy Irving in the lead role.

Little-known fact: “Crossing Delancey” started life as a work for the theater. For those who missed it the first time around, “Crossing Delancey” is being performed in San Jose by the Tabard Theatre Company.

Tabard founder Cathy Cassetta, who directs the play, loved the movie when it came out, but while preparing for the new production she deliberately avoided seeing it again. She wanted to approach the story fresh.

“I loved the intergenerational aspect,” she says of the movie, “the close relationship with the grandmother, and the relationship of Izzy and Sam. Then I read the [play] and liked it even better, because it’s a simpler story.”

For starters, there are fewer characters, five in all. In addition, the Izzy character often breaks the “fourth wall,” addressing the audience directly as she struggles with her love life.

“Izzy is not only rebelling against Old World customs, but she is also trying to define herself as a woman in America,” Cassetta says.

The characters in “Crossing Delancey” straddle two worlds: the Manhattan of the mid-’80s and the older, fast-disappearing culture of the Lower East Side, where so many Jewish immigrants settled.

Beverley Griffith, who plays Bubbie, is not Jewish, but Cassetta says she captures the spirit and cadence of an immigrant woman who wants only the best for her granddaughter.“Not everyone will be a grandparent, but most everyone has been a grandchild and had the influence of a grandparent,” she adds. “That’s universal.”

The play continues through Feb. 19 at the Theater on San Pedro Square, 29 N. San Pedro St., San Jose. Ticket prices are $10-$35, and a portion of proceeds will go to the Addison-Penzak JCC. For more information, visit or call (408) 979-0231.

— dan pine