Crossing Delancey is the kind of wistful romantic comedy that was very popular on Broadway in the 1980s. Later made into a film by Joan Micklin Silver starring Amy Irving, the story is the sort of thing like Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck, where unbelievably charming characters populate an urban oasis that is as cuddly as it is idyllic.
In Crossing Delancey, Isabelle “Izzy” Grossman is a beautiful, dreamy bookstore worker who is harried by her lovable Bubbie, her 80 year old grandmother who believes it’s time Izzy gets married. Bubbie takes on the servies of a matchmaker – Hannah. Yup, a Jewish matchmaker like Dolly Levi, except without the singing. Hannah finds what she thinks is a perfect match for Izzy: Sam, a soulful poet who sells pickles. Izzy greets all this with good-natured dismissiveness; she has her eye on Tyler, a handsome author who lingers at her bookstore, while she pines for him.
I can see why Crossing Delancey was popular enough to be made into a film. Izzy’s a great character – funny, slightly dour. Bubbie takes the place of the Magical Negro – the ethnic character who is full of wise advice, and serves as a spiritual guide to the main character. Bubbie’s a lovely cliche of the Jewish grandmother. Like the archetypal Jewish grandma, she indulges her granddaughter, slipping her money and mothering her with a fierce love; she also is preoccupied with her daughter’s future and wants her to get hitched. None of this is new – but for some reason, when done well and with love, the doting Jewish grandmother can still be an endearing character (as long as she doesn’t venture into a monstrous, emascualting force which sometimes is the case).
When reading a play, you lose something – it’s very well-written, but I’d love to see it performed. I imagine Alyson Hannigan would’ve been a perfect Izzy – and I’d love to see Barbra Streisand do Bubbie (it would be an extension of her funny performance in Meet the Parents). Still, the wit’s there, and the jokes are still fun to read.