New York — Bar Mitzvah Boy Play with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Don Black, book by Jack Rosenthal (American version by Martin Gottfried). Directed by Robert Kalfin. Jewish family life once more provides the stuff of comic drama in ``Bar Mitzvah Boy,'' at the 92nd Street Y's American Jewish Theatre. Set in 1946, the Brooklyn version of a British TV and stage piece by Jack Rosenthal follows the rite of passage of Eliot Green (Peter Smith) as he reacts to the symbolic Judaic ceremony in which 13-year-old boys claim their manhood.
Act 1 climaxes with an overwhelmed Eliot escaping from the synagogue to take refuge in a neighborhood park.
Eliot's problem is not merely adolescent blues, the fear of accepting his ordained adulthood, or even distaste for the catered occasion that follows the ceremony. There is also his disillusionment with adult hypocrisy and with male role models whose behavior seems far removed from the religious and ethical ideals he has been taught in Sabbath school. For the spectator, the lad's momentary rebellion provides a relief from the stereotypes (parents, grandfather, etc.) in which ``Bar Mitzvah Boy'' is steeped.
One of Mr. Rosenthal's stronger scenes is the playground encounter during which Eliot's older syster, Lesley, (Eleanor Reissa) gives her confused sibling a short course in maturity. The two young actors play the brother-sister relationship with winning simplicity, mutual affection, and humor.
Veteran hit composer Jule Styne has written some pleasant tunes for ``Bar Mitzvah Boy,'' with here and there an ethnic strain. But the score as a whole (with lyrics by Don Black) offers little compensation for the blandness and clich'es of the script. Martin Gottfried made the American adaptation. Robert Kalfin directed. The performance is genuinely enlivened by the dynamic accompaniment of duo-pianists Lorraine Wolf and Stephen Marzullo.
The production is scheduled to run through June 28.