Silliness and Sanctimony: So this is a drawing-room comedy of manners from the 18th century -- contemporaneous with (and influenced by), like, Moliere -- and the author was a major figure in the Jewish enlightenment who was very pro-secularism and assimilation, and anti-Hasidism. It's ... really not hard to tell.
A RICH JEWISH FATHER: So I am arranging my daughter's marriage to this Hasidic scholar I have hired to study Bible with me.
EVERYONE ELSE IN THE FAMILY: That is ... the worst. Just the worst idea ever.
THE HEROINE: Ugh! I'm running away with this goy nobleman!
EVERYONE ELSE IN THE FAMILY: That is ... also not a great idea, but we're all agreed that it's basically your dad's fault, for being a dick.
THE HEROINE'S UNCLE: So I found your daughter in a brothel! Don't worry, she's fine, no harm done really. Guess who else I found in that brothel? YEAH. YOUR FAVORITE religious scholar. Are we all agreed now that religious Jews are stupid hypocrites, arranged marriages are terrible, and we should all embrace the Enlightenment?
EVERYONE ELSE IN THE FAMILY: Yeah! Yeah, I guess we are!
Serkele: This a pretty straightforward domestic comedy/Cinderella story about a hypocritical hypochondriac who steals her disappeared brother's inheritance and takes advantage of her sweet, beautiful niece, who really just wants to believe that her aunt is a nice person! Add a con artist who wants to marry into the family, a noble young student who's in love with the niece, a cute romantic subplot about a couple of the household servants, a ~*~mysterious stranger~*~, and a chorus of police officers wandering around pointing and laughing at everyone, and this is all pretty generally enjoyable.
The Two Kuni-Lemls: One of the very first plays of the Yiddish theater boom period around the turn of the century, this is another variation on Silliness and Sanctimony's theme of "ugh, who wants to marry a Hasid?" except wackier, and also, a musical! Basically the plot revolves around the heroine's boyfriend disguising himself as Arranged Match Kuni-Leml so that he and the heroine can get married, which leads to a lot of mistaken-identity hijinks -- as when, for example, the heroine accidentally starts making out with the real Kuni-Leml because she thinks he's her boyfriend in disguise, and he's like "OH GOD NO, SINFUL GIRL PARTS, GET IT AWAY!" INCLUDING a full chorus of chipper young med students pretending to be ghosts.
(Super ablist, though. It's not enough for poor Kuni-Leml to be an easily scandalized religious Jew who is no match for the heroine's dashing young med student boyfriend; he also has to have a limp and a stutter, which are not treated kindly.)
Miriam: I expected this one to be dull and depressing -- it's the sad story of an innocent young seamstress who is seduced by a rich boy, and ends up as a prostitute -- but actually I thought it was good? Lots of scenes of the family that Miriam lives with being like "NO MIRIAM THIS WILL NOT END WELL" and Miriam being like "YOU'RE NOT MY REAL MOM!!!" but, I mean, the dynamics between Miriam and her adopted temporary family are really interesting. The final scene is Miriam and two other prostitutes locking themselves away to have a girls' night and rant, with remarkably little judgment on the part of the author.
The Duke: OK. The Duke is about a rich Polish nobleman who converts to Judaism, but -- no, I'm sorry, ( I have to summarize this in full. )
I genuinely can't tell how we are supposed to take most of this. Is it a commentary on cultural appropriation? A genuine indictment of the Jewish people for being sad and depressing and uncool? A satire on class distintions? All of the above? Do the bear trousers ... symbolize ... something ....? WHO CAN SAY? Certainly not me, but I spent the whole text completely fascinated, that's for sure.