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A CurtainUp Review
Inventing Avi (and other theatrical maneuvers)
By Elyse Sommer
Inventing Avi, my third backstage comedy in a week ( The Royal Family & Circle Mirror Transformation), is a farce that manages its cornucopia of twists and turns without the genre's requisite four doors which works just fine thanks to a cast of fine farceurs, Mark Waldrop's snappy direction and Ray Klausen's fiendishly clever abstract set with its back panels of giant manuscript pages; also Brian Nason's propulsive lighting and Matthew Hemesath witty costumes.
Though propelled by humor that relies more on sure-fire shtick than genuinely fresh wit, the performances and the smartly timed and staged production do tickle the audience's funny bone. To assure that the laughs offset the cornier bits that should have been deleted there's Alix Korey, who can make you laugh without saying a word (even more than usual in a blonde wig courtesy of Daniel Koye), playing one of two show business sisters who've been on the outs with each other for years.
Neither Korey's Judy Siff, a theater producer, or her actress sister Mimi, (another on on the mark performance by Emily Zacharias, who also doubles as Judy and Mimi's mother in several amusing flashbacks), are exactly at the top of their game. Judy has yet to produce a hit, not that she hasn't spent plenty of her never seen financier husband's money on seemingly promising dramas like Electrifying Ethel, about the Rosenberg trials.
Sister Mimi's once successful career is on the decline, with most of her gigs on the order of Dissent : A Musical Evening with Ruth Bader Ginsburg performed for Jewish organizations. Being in this show biz niche hardly pays the rent on her stylish apartment or the salary of her grumpy maid Astrud (a scene stealing performance by Lori Gardner, who also doubles as young Judy). However, it has put Mimi on the board of the Abraham Beigelman Trust which has the wherewithal to fund Jewish creative projects.
It's inevitable that he two sisters will be reunited. The vehicle bringing them together is assistant David's holocaust denial play. But with the never seen Mr. Siff's money suddenly captive to a Ponzi scheme, only the sponsorship of the Beigelman Trust can enable Six Million Jews to leap from page to stage. Since David isn't Jewish, he is persuaded to allow Amy's chameleon actor friend (Juri Henley-Cohn) to become the pretend author, Avi Aviv (yes, as in Tel Aviv). Not surprisingly Judy's cooperation requires her to play the lead. Naturally, invented Avi sets off more dirty tricks and, given that he's a sexy hunk, this includes all manner of hanky-pank.
Can Six Million Jews miraculously succeed, like Springtime for Hitler? Will all these shenanigans leave David forever victimized or somehow a victor? Will blood prove to be thicker than rivalry for the sisters? I'll leave it to you to find out, but rest assured, Waldrop and his actors will see to it that every opportunity for landing a joke will be seized.