It was a good year for Woody Allen, 1978. He won his first Oscar for Annie Hall and an O. Henry award for “The Kugelmass Episode.” Published in The New Yorker, the short story follows a humanities professor who, in the grips of a midlife crisis, decides he should have an affair. Dismayed by the decision, Kugelmass’ therapist says, “I’m an analyst, not a magician.” So Kugelmass seeks a magician who shoves him into a cheap magic closet with the book of his choosing. When Kugelmass opens the door, he steps out into the world of Madame Bovary, where he easily woos the beautiful, vainglorious Emma and carries her back to New York City. Of course, Flaubert’s protagonist proves too much for our fumbling City College employee, and the affair ends in disaster. Failing to learn his lesson, Kugelmass returns to the closet, where a freak explosion traps him in a book of remedial Spanish, chased by a hairy irregular verb. This charming farce about humanity, art, and escapism come before a live audience with explicit permission from the author by way of the Word for Word Performing Arts Company, which is more than up to the task. Last time the cast members appeared on this stage, they presented David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. Compared with that, Kugelmassis a piece of rugelach.
Thu., May 24, 8 p.m., 2012