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Off-Broadway Review

The Boychick Affair: The Bar Mitzvah of Harry Boychick

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The Boychick Affair: The Bar Mitzvah of Harry Boychick
The specter of Grandma Sylvia—whom theatergoers will recall as the matriarch of a dizzy, dysfunctional family that celebrated her funeral Off-Broadway during the 1990s—looms large over The Boychick Affair: The Bar Mitzvah of Harry Boychick, the newest addition to the interactive-theater genre.

Unlike Grandma Sylvia's Funeral, The Boychick Affair doesn't immediately tell you what it's about, so let me help. As the subtitle suggests, it's the bar mitzvah of Harry S. Boychick (Greg Mikuak), Sylvia's great-grandson. And what an affair it is! There are leggy hip-hop dancers swiveling their hips by the bima, and enough rap to make the Torah sound gangsta. Meanwhile, there are Harry's divorced parents, Cheryl (Amy Lord) and Aaron (Herbert A. Walsh), acrimoniously sniping at one another. Aaron, who says he's a Broadway producer, is what Sylvia would call a no-goodnik. He hasn't enough cash to pay for the affair and must be continually bailed out by family friend Tito Sanchez (André Montal). He also gives out business cards reading "I Am Theatre" and says he owns the Lunt-Fontaine Theatre—no, that's not a misspelling.

Adding to the lunacy are characters out of a soap opera, like Soraii Teitelbaum (Ina Marie Smith), a cousin dreaming of starring in Broadway musicals who sings—often on key, though not always—practically without interruption. Or Rabbi Jules Feinman (Janice Markham), who seems to be approximately 14 months pregnant. Or another cousin, Brendan Grossman (Jeff Campanella), whose libido operates on permanent overdrive and who spends much of his evening teasing women while wearing a pink bathrobe.

A flotilla of minor characters is capable of interrupting the show as well, whether it's during the ceremony, when Harry is to read from the Torah (but never does), or at the reception. For example, there's Aunt Rita (Gloria Jung), whose scoliosis requires her to sit in a special chair, and her husband, Sheldon (Adam Hockerman), who wouldn't be unwelcome at a Grateful Dead concert and was generous enough to offer me a, er, toke-n of his esteem. (I said thanks but no thanks.) Nehema (Constance Reese) and Bobby (Joseph Long) are Rita and Sheldon's children, adopted from Africa. At one point Nehema paid homage to her heritage by performing an African dance up the aisle of the makeshift shul where the ceremony occurs. At another point Bobby, wearing a shirt fit for a bicycle messenger and spandex for effect, was so flamboyant he could have turned Harry's bar mitzvah into a drag ball from the House of Xtravaganza.

One of the best aspects of interactive theater—and evident in how Lord, who wrote The Boychick Affair, directs it—is how it sets up lunatic characters and lets them rip. There is a structure, of course, in that it's Harry's bar mitzvah, and certainly Harry gets his due. But it's how Mikuak and the other actors react to all the guests and never break character that makes The Boychick Affair such a hoot. In a summertime starved for comedy, this show is a brucha—a blessing.

Presented by Boychick Affair LLC at the Times Square Arts Center, 669 Eighth Ave., NYC. July 18Sept. 6. Sat., 6:30 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (800) 838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com. Casting by Sarah Harris.

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