The Boychick Affair--The Bar Mitzvah of Harry Boychick
nytheatre.com review by Nicole Bournas-Ney
July 18, 2009
Just weeks ago the American Theatre Wing announced that they were eliminating the Tony Award for Best Theatrical Event because there really wasn't any difference between these productions and plays or musicals. Well, with all due respect to the Tony committee, I must beg to differ. The Boychick Affair is truly a theatrical event—comparing it with a traditional play or musical would just be, well, silly. Boychick is a mock bar mitzvah that sprawls through three theatre spaces and features a haftorah recited rap-style and plot twists that easily could have been ripped from a Days of Our Lives script. This piece of interactive theatre is about not creating your usual kind of production, but rather a total experience for the bar mitzvah "guests."
What The Boychick Affair seeks to accomplish is quite simple—that those attending the celebration have a zany, good time and feel like they are at an actual bar mitzvah in some way. After all, besides the fact that it is a coming-of-age ritual, the point behind a real life bar mitzvah is to be a celebration. Underneath an undeniably and deliciously ludicrous facade—the incessantly show-tune-belting cousin, the weed-smoking Hippie uncle, and the Bible-thumping, icon-toting stepmother with a Southern accent seemingly directly out of Auntie Mame—there is a sense of authenticity in The Boychick Affair. Anyone who has attended a bar mitzvah would recognize the proud grandfather who won't stop chewing your ear off, the weepy speech by the mother who invariably mentions the bris, the inevitable off-key rendition of "Sunrise, Sunset,"and being dragged out of your seat to dance the Macarena.
The exceptionally game cast members are all funny, but there are three standouts. Greg Mikurak, who assistant directed the event, also plays bar mitzvah boy Harry Boychick, the center of all the to-do and basically everybody's straight man. Mikurak does a beautiful job providing an emotional center to the evening. Janice Markham as the pregnant lesbian Rabbi Feinman who runs a congregation located under Coney Island's Wonder Wheel, is stellar, providing hilarity through her complete earnestness in the face of utter madness.
And finally there is Amy Lord. After having been the very first leading lady in that mother ship of environmental theatre, Tina and Tony's Wedding, she wrote, directed, and plays mother of the bar mitzvah boy, Cheryl Boychick, in this production. Cheryl is, in a way, the most realistic of all the characters, playing the tense, overprotective Jewish mama to a T.
When a fire that starts during the traditional candle lighting ceremony has been put out, when we've all had a Hispanic nosh, and when the cheesy dancing Shalom Girls have finished gyrating, The Boychick Affair is exactly what it should be—very much like going to a real-life bar mitzvah, only with marquee lights and Broadway flair. That is to say, it's kitschy, awkward, and one heck of a fun evening.