It is the unlikely story of two friends on different paths, both going through life on a spiritual journey — and it all started in a pub.
My Rabbi is a semi-autobiographical play based on the lives of its creators, Joel Bernbaum and Kayvon Kelly.
“We used our real-life experiences as a jumping off point for the play,” said Bernbaum.
The play focuses on the characters’ relationship as friends from different cultures – Bernbaum is Jewish and Kelly is half Irish and half Iranian.
“It [is] a comedic drama that looks at the global political situation and old world politics through the eyes of two young guys,” said Bernbaum, 33.
“Our hope is that people will watch the play and think about these very complicated, very large global political issues and think about them through a humanistic lens.”
The play is intended to make the audience think.
“We didn’t try to write a play that answered questions,” said Bernbaum. “We wanted to write a play that posed questions.”
However, it does it in a comedic way, said Bernbaum, describing the play as a comedic drama.
“This play really is about friendship,” said Bernbaum. “One thing I haven’t seen a lot of in Canadian theatre [are] plays that delve into the intricacies of male friendship.”
Bernbaum and Kelly wrote the first draft of My Rabbi in a pub after graduating from the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria in 2008.
“We realized we had absolutely no work lined up and we looked at each other and said we should write a play,” said Bernbaum. “Before we finished the pitcher of beer, we had in front of us a napkin with an outline of the scenes.”
The majority of the play itself takes place in a pub, barring flashback scenes or other parts of their lives.
The play premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. It will be making its North American premiere at Belfry Theatre’s Studio A in Victoria, presented by Puente Theatre this month.
Mercedes Bátiz-Benét, artistic director of Puente Theatre, is happy to have My Rabbi be the first play in the theatre’s Presenter Series. My Rabbi started as a workplay at Puente Theatre in 2009. Workplay is a series of plays-in-progress by emerging Canadian playwrights writing about multiculturalism and diversity.
“In a beautiful way it shows us how easy it is for anybody to fall into misconceptions and assume things of the other,” said Bátiz-Benét. “When I first read it, it changed a lot of my preconceptions.
Shows will be on Sept. 16 and 17 and from Sept. 19 to 28 at 8 p.m., along with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at belfry.bc.ca.
The play is intended for people aged 16 and over, as it contains mature language.