Saving HanukkahAmanda Finnon December 15, 2022 at 9:30 pm

During the holiday season there are traditions all over the world. I hope that Strawdog’s Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins maintains its place as a Chicago seasonal perennial. Now in its fifth year, the show (an adaptation by ensemble member Michael Dailey of the beloved children’s book by Eric Kimmel) centers a ragtag troupe of nomadic performers. When their leader Hershel (Jordan Zelvin) persuades an innkeeper to trade food and shelter for a story they’ve never performed before, their wits are put to the test. 

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins Through 1/1: Fri 7 PM, Sat-Sun 1 and 4 PM; no performances Sat 12/24 4 PM or Sun 12/25; Edge Off Broadway, 1133 W. Catalpa,, free. Livestream also available, masks and proof of vaccination required for ages five and over.

Suddenly the troupe must retell the story they all know but haven’t produced—the tale of Hershel of Ostropol (the grandfather of troupe leader Hershel) who took back a synagogue that was overrun by spooky goblins. Strawdog’s multitalented ensemble, under the direction of Hannah Todd, is well-suited for the gig. Their gleeful jaunts through songs (music and lyrics by Jacob Combs), goblin antics, and imaginative puppeteering makes for a delightful 60-minute runtime. (Caitlin McLeod and Rocio Cabrera designed the puppets, with Stephanie Diaz serving as a puppetry consultant.) While the show is not a painstaking adaptation of classic literature like other holiday offerings in town, it is a breath of fresh air. 

Hershel is also a silly, spirited reminder that we all have stories to tell. And if you can find enough cutlery and spare fabric, you too can create some spookified goblin puppets of your very own. (Or buy one of the ones used in the show in a forthcoming auction to support Strawdog’s free-admission policy.) 

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