Ikh bin farlibt
I'm in Love
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Olshanetsky’s Ikh bin farlibt (I’m in Love), with lyrics by Jacob Jacobs, is a love duet from his operetta A ganeydn far tzvey (A Paradise for Two), with a book by Joseph Lateiner and William Siegel—first produced in 1928 at the National Theater in New York. All the action takes place in New York, and the time is given as “now and always.” Leybke and Fanitshke are young lovers, both of whom are poor, and they live—one presumes in tiny tenement apartments—on New York’s Lower East Side, home to the largest concentration of Eastern European immigrants. They also knew each other in Europe, where he once saved her life and where the two first became infatuated with each other. Khane Tsipe, her conniving aunt, is portrayed as the quintessential yente—the stereotyped combination shrew, henpecker, and meddler made famous by Bette Jacobs (who played the role of Khana Tsipe in this production) through her hilarious radio and vaudeville character Yente Telebende. Khana Tsipe’s second husband was played by her real-life husband, Jacob Jacobs, who also regularly played her scolded husband, Mendel Telebende, in those sparring skits.
Khane Tsipe schemes to accomplish a match for her niece with David—ostensibly because he would be able to provide expensive medical treatment for Fanitshke’s older sister, a pressure to which she yields almost sacrificially. But in fact, such a wealthy and socially prominent “nephew-in-law” would give Khana Tsipe the status she craves as a grande dame of the fashionable Upper West Side. At some unidentified point in that first act, Leybke and Fanitshke sing their love duet, Ikh bin farlibt, in which they recall nostalgically their initial love in Europe.
The show contains exaggerated and coarse but sidesplitting comic routines between Khana Tsipe and her husband (probably written with the Jacobs duo in mind), including one in which he knocks her out with boxing gloves. Meanwhile, when David inadvertently overhears Leybke and Fanitshke’s farewell to each other, he realizes that his marriage to her is ill-advised, and he relinquishes her to Leybke.