The professional ups and downs of the theatrical Burstein clan – the late, Polish-born Pesach’ke; wife Lillian Lux; and their American-born twins, Mike and Susan – reflect the robust status of Yiddish theater in the early 20th century, and its post-Holocaust decline. But it’s their familial ups and downs that shift this small, stubbornly poignant documentary (The Komediant means actor in Yiddish) from the realm of special-interest audiences to the more universal theater of family psychodynamics.
First Susan Burstein-Roth flees the stage life she hated as a child for marriage at a young age (paralleling her mother), finding comfort in kabbalah. Then her brother, now the established stage and TV performer Mike Burstyn (”Barnum”), leaves the act. Pain and loss crowd the corners of Arnon Goldfinger and Oshra Schwartz’s portrait. But ”The Komediant” also conveys the Bursteins’ genetic predisposition for the dying traditions of the old family soft-shoe.