My Rabbi

My Rabbi follows the story of two best friends: an atheist man (whose family are mostly Muslim) and a Jewish man. As they get older, they both begin to take their faiths more seriously and when the situation in Israel, along with anti-Semitic attacks in Canada, becomes increasingly serious, their friendship is severely tested.

In the interest of their friendship, the characters never really get down to a detailed discussion of the political issues at stake, but this is a mixed blessing.

The play switches, with mixed success, between talking about political issues and investigating whether two people can manage to be friends under such difficult circumstances. At its best, this technique of relating everything to the two central characters successfully dramatises the conflict in a very emotionally intelligent fashion. When it doesn't work, the political strand intrudes upon the narrative and deeply personal, emotional moments are derailed by much more abstract topics. On the other side of this, the characters occasionally just decide to embark on highly personal confessions that seem implausible.

The performances are strong. As well as playing themselves, the actors must also play other characters in the two men’s lives and they do it very well. Kayvon Kelly (Aria) is particularly worthy of note. He brings a real warmth and emotional intelligence to his performance. The performers are at their best when they both play their primary characters and we have the chance to witness the subtle changes in their relationship. A slight issue here is that the play takes place over three major time periods and it’s often difficult to work out which is which. The changes in the characters are usually too subtle to work it out until some point in the dialogue makes it clear.

By making the story primarily a personal one about two friends, the play generally does a good job of being reasonably balanced. In the interest of their friendship, the characters never really get down to a detailed discussion of the political issues at stake, but this is a mixed blessing. It does keep the play relationship centred, but it has the downside of meaning the most serious issues the play raises are never sufficiently addressed. Jake's (Josh Bernbaum) position that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, for example, is clearly presented as disagreeable to Aria, but the text doesn’t give either of them the opportunity to go into any real detail about their views.

The play occasionally falls into the common trap of attempting to cover all the angles of the topic under discussion. As a result, it has ended up with a Muslim character with close links to terrorism. In an otherwise intelligent play, it is a shame to see such a harmful stereotype perpetuated. However, this is one missed beat in a generally thoughtful piece of theatre.

Reviews by Grace Knight

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The Blurb

A Jew and a Muslim walk into a bar... My Rabbi is a comedic drama about two Canadian best friends who go on spiritual journeys that change their lives forever. A laugh out loud thought-provoking story about the lines that occur between faith and friendship. World premiere.