Bar Mitzvah Boy

By Mark Leiren-Young

Bar Mitzvah Boy
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Joey Brant needs to have a bar mitzvah immediately. Like, next Tuesday. Except he’s not thirteen, the usual age for the Jewish milestone. He’s in his sixties. A task he thinks he could quickly cross off his to-do list becomes a deep immersion into the faith he no longer ... Read more


Overview

Joey Brant needs to have a bar mitzvah immediately. Like, next Tuesday. Except he’s not thirteen, the usual age for the Jewish milestone. He’s in his sixties. A task he thinks he could quickly cross off his to-do list becomes a deep immersion into the faith he no longer follows when he meets Rabbi Michael Levitz-Sharon.

Michael’s personal life is hanging together by a thread. Her preteen daughter is being treated for cancer, which has put a strain on her marriage and her beliefs. Between her duties as rabbi, mother, and wife, she doesn’t have much time or energy to spare. So, when she finds Joey in her office on Shabbat asking for immediate help, she refuses.

Eventually Joey wins Michael over and they embark on a crash bar mitzvah course, leading the two into a series of reflections on their own faith and family. Through the genuine connection established between Joey and Michael, this sentimental dramedy will charm anyone who has ever questioned why bad things happen to good people.

Mark Leiren-Young

Mark Leiren-Young has written over two dozen plays, including dramas, comedies, musicals, revues and theatre for young audiences. His play Shylock has been produced around the world since debuting at Bard on the Beach in Vancouver in 1996. The Czech production of the play ran for three years in Prague and was broadcast as a television special in 2019. He won the 2009 Leacock Medal for Humour for his bestselling memoir Never Shoot a Stampede Queen. He lives in Victoria, BC. You can find out more about Mark at leiren-young.com.

Excerpt

Scene Two
Rabbi’s Office

Late Friday afternoon.

Joey’s back is towards us. He’s decked out in prayer regalia?—?including tefillin, which are on incorrectly. He’s checking the books and pulls one down, stops, pulls another, stops. He takes a hefty book and turns to face the audience, looking very much like the perfect rabbi.

An old-style intercom buzzes and we hear the voice of Sheryl.

Sheryl: Rabbi. You’ve got a visitor. I said to wait in the hall but .  .  . Rabbi?

Joey settles behind the desk. Relaxed. At home. He opens the book, flips the pages. Michael enters, sweaty from her run. And .  .  .

Michael: Excuse me.

Joey: Hello.

Michael stares at Joey, puzzled.

What can I do for you? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m waiting for someone.

Michael: I see.

Joey: I have an appointment.

Michael: Sorry to disturb you.

Joey: Not a problem, I’m sure the receptionist can help you out.

Michael: Or security.

Joey: Absolutely.

Michael reaches for the intercom.

Michael: Shall I call security?

Joey: I’m sorry, do you work here? I don’t know everyone who works here.

Michael: I can see that.

Joey extends a hand.

Joey: Joey.

Michael shakes.

Michael: Michael.

Joey: So your parents wanted a boy?

Michael: It means “gift from G-d” or “who is like G-d. ”

Joey: It means your parents wanted a boy.

Michael: I’m guessing yours did too.

Joey: So what do you do here?

Michael: This and that .  .  . I’m the rabbi. So more this than that.

Joey: No.

Michael: And you’re in my chair.

Joey: You’re Rabbi Levitz-Sharon? (pronounced Share-in. )

Michael: Rabbi Michael Levitz-Sharon. (pronounced Sha-rown) Like the prime minister. No relation.

Joey: But you’re?—

Michael: Not circumcised?

Joey: Young. I was thinking young.

Michael: Of course you were.

Joey indicates her ball cap.

Joey: And that’s your kippah? So you cover your head all the time?

Michael: You must be Mr. Brant.

Joey: So you heard I was coming?

Michael: I heard you wanted to see me today and Sheryl told you I wasn’t available because I’m never available Friday afternoons. I’ve got a service to prepare.

Joey: Did she tell you it was an emergency? I told her to tell you it was an emergency.

Michael: Did somebody die?

Joey: No one I know.

Michael: Is someone dying?

Joey: We’re all dying. It’s the human condition.

Michael: So it’s not an emergency. And it’s almost Shabbat. And I really have to shower and change.

Joey: This won’t take long.

Michael: I can see you next week. Not on Friday. Once the sun goes down I can’t turn on the hot water.

Joey: That’s just silly.

Michael: It is, actually, but that’s religion for you.

Joey: An ancient tradition dating back to the great showers of Egypt.

Michael: Also, the congregation will be wondering where I am.

Joey: I’m here now. I’m dressed. I only need a minute.

Michael: You look lovely. You should stay for services.

Joey: Are you kidding? It’s Friday night.

Michael: Yes, that would be when we traditionally have Friday night services. And you know what happens at sundown?

Joey: Hell yah. I remember this from Hebrew school. The chariot turns into a pumpkin and the horses turn back into mice.

Michael: You have to go. I have to change. Now if you want to talk next week?—

Joey: This’ll only take a second. Please, just one second, I promise.

Awards

  • Jewish Playwriting Prize from the Jewish Plays Project 2017, Winner

Reviews

“Truly a subtle and intelligent (actually exquisite) presentation of how two individuals deal with timeless and complex issues that we all deal with in some way or another — What part does faith and ritual play in me being a Jew? What roles will community and synagogue life play over the course of my life? Oy vey!”

“Leiren-Young is a Shaw with a peculiarly Jewish piquancy, tantalisingly sweet-and-sour, like my Bubbeh’s celebrated Brisket. Such complex cookery takes deft hands to bring to table. ”

“A gentle, bittersweet comedy. ”

“Warm, wise, and wonderful. ”

“This is a well-thought-out play… [Leiren-Young] knows how to grab an audience’s attention immediately and just the right moment to surprise you with a sudden plot twist… Bar Mitzvah Boy is terrific from start to finish. ”

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