by David Jay Bernstein.
Directed by Randy Brenner.
Stage Door Theater.
Cast Deserves Better Play.
While it is certainly true that not every actor can land such a plum role
as Hamlet, there is a real lack of sympathy for the plight of competent
professionals forced to display their talents in flawed dramas. Such is
the case with the solid performances of Jonathan Brett (Max), Ben Prayz
(Gary), and Emily Freeman (Lori) in “The Bris, the Bar Mitzvah and
Beyond.” Risking a spoiler, the “beyond” includes a wedding and a funeral.
The structure of this family saga is quite tidy — like a neatly wrapped
gift. However, once opened, the box turns out to be empty. Act I begins
with a dialogue between an 8-day-old Max and his father Gary as the infant
learns about the circumcision that lies ahead. Act II ends years later at
the father’s funeral with a parallel dialogue between the adult son and
his dad’s corpse, now awaiting burial. Some of the audience feared that
the story might come full circle with the dad reincarnated as his own
grandchild awaiting his own Bris. Although that possibility seemed
likely, foreshadowed by earlier conversation, playwright Bernstein
resisted the temptation
A major flaw in attempting to suspend disbelief was in not keeping the
very talky speeches as interior monologues. They begin as such. It is
certainly possible for a new father, cuddling his child, to imagine how
the baby might feel if he knew what lay ahead. Dad may hear his son in
his mind. However, once the baby, who is lying in a crib, appears on stage
as his own spirit, garbed in black, looking and speaking as an adult, the
jig is up. Better for the baby to be heard than to be seen. The same
flaws occur later when the spirit of Dad appears beside the coffin
containing his remains to present his beliefs and try to correct family
dissensions. An uncomfortable difference lies between dramatizing the
thoughts of a live infant and the thoughts of a dead father.
One question always marks the supreme test of any play: “Do you care about
any of the characters.” No! They are dull, self-serving and helpless. Max
is a nerd throughout. Certainly, he has no control over what will happen
at his Bris, is equally helpless in attempting to get Lori to dance with
him at his Bar Mitzvah, and lost in indecision before his ultimately
aborted wedding. Once a victim, always a victim — of religious
ceremonies, father’s wishes, and fiancé Lori’s (justifiable) anger.
OK — in spite of this, is there a requisite happy ending? Well, yes, if
we consider that he finally gets the girl, but to me this is undermined by
the loss of dear old Dad (from a sky diving accident).
A praised-filled puff line in the press release proclaims that the play is
“Funnier than ‘The Producers!'” This is a stunning, unbelievable
affirmation until you read who wrote it: David Jay Bernstein’s mother!
While this is obviously intended as humor, it has a ring of truth — ONLY
A MOTHER COULD LOVE THIS PLAY.
Beverly Friend, PHD, Member American Theaters Assn,
Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Margate, Fl
33065.www.stagedoorfl.org 954-344-7765 .Tickets $38-42 , ($16 for
students) 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and
Sunday, through March 26. Run time one hour and 40 minutes including