'Jewish Mother' Humor Boosts Play's Mailer

Oy vey!

A DM campaign for an off-Broadway play about two men seeking Jewish wives is getting rave reviews, in part because the mail piece asks recipients to call the playwrights' mothers and lists their real phone numbers.

The play, “Jewtopia,” written by and starring Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson, tells the story of two 30-year-old single men, Chris O'Connell and Adam Lipschitz.

According to the play's literature, “Chris, a gentile, wants to marry a Jewish girl so he'll never have to make another decision. Adam, a Jew, wants to marry a Jewish girl to please his family, but can't get a date to save his life. After meeting at a Jewish singles mixer, Adam and Chris form a secret pact. Chris promises that he will help Adam find the Jewish girl of his dreams and show him 'Jewtopia,' but only if Adam will help Chris shed his gentile-ness and bring him undercover into the Jewish world.”

“Jewtopia” premiered in May 2003 at Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood, CA, where it played 15 months with more than 300 consecutive sold-out performances. It began a preview performance off-Broadway in New York at Westside Theatre on Sept. 28. Opening night is Oct. 21.

To promote the show, Fogel and Wolfson turned to Eliran Murphy Group Ltd., New York, an advertising and marketing agency specializing in arts and entertainment, including Broadway and off-Broadway shows.

Together, they devised a direct mail piece that says “Just Jew It” on the cover with a photograph of the back of a gentile man's head wearing a yarmulke emblazoned with a representation of the Nike swoosh.

The mail piece offers positive reviews from newspapers and magazines as well as giving recipients the chance to buy tickets at a discounted price ($36 versus the regular $52.50-$59.50. The special is valid for performances from Sept. 28 to Nov. 24. Tickets must be purchased by Oct. 31.

Inside the mail piece, recipients can read a letter from the playwrights that explains the show. At the end, they write: “We, Bryan and Sam, believe so strongly that you will absolutely love our show that we are giving you the phone numbers of our Mothers, Linda and Arlene — so if you hate the show you can call them personally and tell them that they were idiots to encourage their sons to drop out of law school and go into show business.”

The numbers are the real phone numbers of their mothers, but callers are greeted with a recorded message.

“If this is Joyce Bernstein, please call my cell phone so we can make lunch plans,” says the answering machine at Linda Fogel's home in Denver, “because I'm not picking up the phone right now because my son gave my home number to 10 million New Yorkers.”

Arlene Wolfson's answering machine in Jacksonville, FL, says, “We are not answering our phone right now because our son Sam gave our home phone number to 10 million New Yorkers, and it's been ringing off the hook for four days straight. Why does he hurt me like this? Was I not a good mother to him?”

Both messages also promote the show.

Since part of the play satirizes domineering Jewish mothers, it made sense to feature them in the campaign.

“The significance here is very funny,” said Barbara Eliran, CEO of Eliran Murphy Group. “It's the Jewish mother sort of thing. If you are unhappy, give my mom a call.”

The direct mail piece went to a list of 100,000 Broadway and off-Broadway theatergoers in the New York area gleaned from a broker. It mailed in two drops, with half going the Friday before Labor Day and the rest on the Tuesday after Labor Day. The campaign, which did not target Jewish groups specifically, cost $40,000.

Though Eliran did not provide specific response rates because the company generally waits until an offer has expired to give results, she said that “relative to other products in the marketplace at this time, and relative to many other off-Broadway shows that we've done mailings for, the response to this is very high.”

But the phone numbers are just one reason for the success, Eliran said.

“I think it's a product that people want to see,” she said. “In addition, I think the artwork is very arresting. You look at it and it makes you smile. It's funny.”

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