This review of Billy Van Zandt & Jane Milmore's What The Rabbi Saw at Studio Theatre Long Island was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
What The Rabbi Saw
Written by Billy Van Zandt & Jane Milmore
Directed by David Dubin
Studio Theatre Long Island
141 South Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, New York
Billy Van Zandt tells me What The Rabbi Saw was first performed at the Henderson Theater in Lincroft, New Jersey as part of Phoenix Productions' summer season of 1995. Mr. Van Zandt directed it there and this slapstick comedy farce was based on a short sketch from his and Jane Milmore's play Do Not Disturb written in 1991. It takes place just before the wedding of Walter and Wendy in a Waldorf Astoria hotel suite reserved for Lainie Berman, a performer the bride's father has flown in from Las Vegas to sing at the wedding. Ms. Berman (who has been played by Adrienne Barbeau on the East Coast and by Eva Longoria on the West Coast) may or may not have fooled around with Mr. Kirschenbaum (the Father of the Bride) in Las Vegas. She is late in arriving with Vinnie, her jealous mobster boyfriend, so everyone knows the room is empty and some wedding guests decide to take advantage of that fact for some last minute infidelities.
The play opens with Walter (The Groom) in bed with Claudia (The Bridesmaid and his soon to be sister-in-law). When their tryst is interrupted by Mrs. Kirschenbaum's knock on the door, Walter's tuxedo pants' zipper gets caught in the chiffon of Claudia's dress. Walter removes his pants and the antics begin. It is soon revealed that Wendy (the Bride) and Mitch (The Best Man and Walter's Best Friend) have also been having an affair. Walter beats up on Mitch. Wendy gets drunk. Walter, Mitch and Rabbi Huchelman lose their pants along the way. Noel, The Wedding Coordinator, goes looking for pants and when Walter and Mitch put on each other's ill-fitting pants, Noel asks, "Did you ever think of trying to switch?" to which Claudia responds, "How do you think we got into this problem in the first place?"
As for depicted stereotypes, Noel (The Wedding Coordinator), referred to the Waldorf Astoria's "condescending concierge" as a "French Bastard" (I don't know why he thought he was French) and Mr. Kirschenbaum (who was spending $100,00o on the wedding) was portrayed as "cheap" when he told Noel he was not paying for Lainie Berman's guest, who showed up unexpectedly and without an invitation. The gay-acting Noel was also heard to say he had experience "pulling things off," and although he said he "didn't want anyone handling" his "hidden treasures," nevertheless agreed to a date with Mitch, who enjoyed wearing Lainie Berman's dress and wig as a disguise, and thus appeared to be a bi-sexual, transgendered individual.
The best line of the play is uttered by Rabbi Huchelman when he walks in on Walter and Mitch jumping around the room with their pants off. The Rabbi says with a strong Jewish inflection, "What's with all the leaping and the prancing?" They attempt to explain away their situation by trying to convince the Rabbi he is hallucinating because he ate mushrooms while imbibing Manischewitz wine but he will have none of it. He responds by saying, "I see London. I see France. I can see your underpants."
This zany comedy is packed with silliness and ridiculous situations. Don't expect any depth or substance here. There are no particularly memorable lines and the script invites over-acting, which is fine in this particular situation. You will not have sympathy for any of these bad-acting characters. More importantly, very few of the story elements can stand up to critical scrutiny. Walter supposedly started having an affair with Claudia after she got her $12,000.00 nose job but when someone hits her on the schnozzola during one of the fast-paced stunts, now, all of a sudden, Walter no longer loves her. When Vinnie pulls out a gun and threatens to kill everyone, it appears music mysteriously compels everyone to dance as they all try to take the gun away from Vinnie by passing it to one another, a plan doomed to fail in the end. Then the play reaches another level of total implausibility when Mrs. Kirschenbaum takes the gun and tries to force everyone to go through with the original wedding plans. As if that wasn't enough, when everything has been resolved and Noel instructs everyone to leave the room to go down to the ballroom, no one appears able to move for some unknown reason. Total insanity!
David Dubin, the Director, promised the audience an evening of fluff and fun. Nothing requiring you to think. Just dessert. I feel he delivered on that promise. The set was lovely and the entire cast was quite enjoyable to watch as they clearly had a lot of fun performing for us on stage. Particularly impressive was Tom Brown, who played Walter, and Gary Milenko, who was hilarious as Rabbi Huchelman. Other cast members included Nicole Intravia (Wendy), Janine Inamorato Haire (Claudia), Michael Cesarano (Mitch), Robert Budnick (Mr. Kirshenbaum), Ruth McKeown (Mrs. Kirshenbaum), Joanne Rispoli (Lainie), Rich Jimenez (Vinnie), and Scott Earle (Noel). There is also a hilarious, running gag involving a suit bag hanging in the closet. If you are looking for mindless fun and more than a few laughs, I recommend you check out this production of What The Rabbi Saw running at Studio Theatre Long Island through October 25, 2015. You can purchase tickets for $25.00 and reserve your seats by visiting www.societytheatreli.com