nytheatre.com review by Judith Jarosz
August 19, 2011
In this one person show (with occasional mute appearances by actor Jason Najjoum) we meet Amir Levi. He seems a likable thirtysomething single gay male in New York City who comes from a Mexican Israeli Jewish American family and longs to emulate his beloved mother and grandmother’s romantic lifelong partnerships with their spouses. He adores and relates to these female leaders of his family and feels that he is destined to be the next family matriarch. Only problem is that he’s having trouble finding someone to be his prince charming. On a bare stage with three stools and minimal props, we travel in detail with Levi back to his first crush at camp through more adult encounters and relationships.
I thought there would be more of the Mexican Jewish angle, which sounds interesting. Sources say about 88% of Mexico is Catholic, and I was intrigued to hear about this diverse half Mexican, half Israeli, all Jewish upbringing. But although Levi touches on this reference throughout the piece it is not really the focus. That would be his romantic search for Mr. Right.
The first crush story is very sweet and poetically told with just enough humor thrown in to keep you listening until the ending, which I won’t spoil. It is a promising beginning to the show. When Levi speaks rapturously of his Mom and Grandma, or Builla, he paints a wonderful picture of them as strong, lively, artistic people, who follow their passions even when it seems a slippery path. The stories about both of their meetings with the men who would eventually become their husbands are wonderful. When the attention turns to Levi’s more recent personal encounters, the piece derails at bit. The generic tales of guys gone wrong go on too long and do nothing to stand out from the ordinary and keep our attention. In one instance his Mom asks him to relay a romantic story about the meeting of one beau, and by the time we are at its ugly conclusion it is not clear if she is still listening and if so, why he would tell her this? Dropkick the schmucks out of your life, they are not worthy, and tell us more about your wonderful family! By the end of the piece Levi has come to some decisions about what he will and will not compromise on. Like having a child eventually, whether or not he has a partner; and it is nice that there is that completion.
I liked the simple staging by Shauna Horn, who tries to keep the action moving and make creative use of the sparse stage. The slides of the family projected on the back wall add immensely to the show, and are one of the best parts of the experience. Wonderful old photos of family from the '40s, '50s, '60s, and beyond. There is a spiffy tango number choreographed by Megan Snipe, and the lighting by Olivia Harris and sound design by Delisa White add some appropriate subtle touches.
According to his notes, Levi has been working on this piece for a while with different collaborators. It feels like he is so close. I hope that he doesn’t stop working on it, or love. 'Cause he deserves success with both.