The Treasure

Translated from Der Oytser by David Pinski (1905)

A black comedy about greed, ambition, and romance.  When the gravedigger’s half-wit son finds some coins in the cemetery of an impoverished East European village, the townsfolk believe he has found a treasure, and all scramble through the graves looking for their share.  The gravedigger’s daughter is a young woman of great energy, wit, and imagination, but no dowry and therefore no hopes of marriage or any other way out of poverty. She parlays the townsfolk’s fantasies of wealth into a visit from the matchmaker and, ultimately, a bridegroom and a better life.  In the epilogue, which takes place in the cemetery at night, the townsfolk, carrying lanterns, continue to search for treasure among the graves – to the sardonic amusement of the dead.  The language is downright and rude; the characters are for the most part grotesques; the epilogue is closer to expressionism than to naturalism.  Through adventurousness of spirit and force of will, our heroine wrests a good life from an unpromising fate.

Periodically revived.  Max Reinhardt directed it in German translation, and the Theatre Guild produced it in English.

Pinsky, the author, was also a critic, and the “grand old man” of Yiddish letters.

The script is available in God, Man, and Devil: Yiddish Plays in Translation, Syracuse University Press, 1999.

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