Ethnic Theater - Jewish
"The Boychick Affair"
An Inter-active Show
Times Square Arts Center, Manhattan
Where does inter-active theater fall, in the pantheon of theater genres? Is it reality TV, theater of the absurd, street theater, farce? A little of all four, as it happens. The cast of inter-active shows comprises not only the players, but the theatergoers themselves. These hardy souls must be something of risk-takers, willing to plunge into deep water, as it were!
Recently, my son Paul and I attended “The Boychick Affair,” now playing Saturdays and Sundays in the mid-Manhattan Times Square Arts Center. Patterned after earlier New York City efforts such as “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” and “Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral,” this one purports to be the bar-mitzvah of one Harry Boychick, son of divorced parents Cheryl and Aaron.
Unfortunately, this latest take on inter-active theater does not measure up to its predecessors—lacking the satirical sting of “Grandma Sylvia,” for example. This was surprising, since Amy Lord, who created “Boychick” was also responsible for “Grandma Sylvia” and had performed in “Tony and Tina.”
Yet the occasion was full of noise, energy and bonhomie. And it was a solid chance to interact, asking the characters personal questions, sharing opinions. For sure, the fourth wall was down and actors were thoroughly into their roles. The line between pros and amateurs, players and theatergoers, was indeed fuzzy. We quickly realized that we had to go with the flow of this most tasteless of bar-mitzvahs, enter into its spirit. We were distant relatives of Cheryl Boychick, cousins from Connecticut, we explained, as we danced the hora and chatted with others.
“The Boychick Affair” was not so much a story, as a moment in time, peopled by colorful characters. Aaron Boychick is an all-round loser, a blowhard, a phony. Other family members and friends on hand were mother Cheryl, her father Stan (from Las Vegas), Stan’s wife Jackie (there only in spirit), Stan’s new “shiksa” girl friend, and the bar-mitzah boy’s great-grandmother Betty. Betty, clad in slim, glittering black and feathered boa, danced up a storm. Also present were the Grossmans—Uncle Sheldon, Aunt Rita (a New York realtor who gave out her business card), and their adopted black Ethiopian children—Nechama and Bobby. Not the least to make his impact was the effusive Tito Sanchez, Cuban émigré and long-time family friend.
The bar-mitzvah began in the so-called synagogue, with Rabbi Jules presiding. The Rabbi, an earnest little woman and a Lesbian, was about to give birth momentarily. Fortunately, this added drama never occurred. The ceremony featured speeches from family members telling Harry how proud he had made them. G-d knows why. Harry, in turn, slithered into a synagogue dance, accompanied by gangsta rap music and several little cuties (who may have been Sanchez relatives). The girls wore heavy make-up and short skirts which bore the words “shalom” on their backsides.
The party moved to another room, with tables and dance floor, where entertainment continued. Nechama and Bobby turned out to have surprisingly good voices (or were those songs lip-synched?). No matter. The party moved ahead full speed, with cuties dragging Paul to the dance floor and players stopping by our table to chat.
Meanwhile, we waited for the food. We had been promised “a delicious bar Mitzvah meal—including the famous Dessert Cart .” But Aaron Boychick’s check for the caterer having bounced, the caterer had withdrawn their services—and their food! No matter. Tito Sanchez to the rescue! A grand gesture, but a dismal failure. Instead of the kosher dinner, we got tenth-rate Chinese food (an unrecognizable beef dish, an equally bad chicken dish, rice and noodles) and stale chocolate cake. And I had been expecting matzoh ball soup! Considering the price of tickets ($72 per person, the producers offered chintzy refreshments. Better to have served no food at all!
This inter-active theater experience can best be summarized by a famous quote—“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
-- Irene Backalenick
July 13, 2009