What if you crossed Neil Simon with Mel Brooks? You might expect explosive laughter tinged with more than a dose of the Jewish experience. In their futile attempt to pull off such a coup, Robert Cary & Benjamin Feldman have written “Inventing Avi” which is running through November 1st at the June Havoc Theatre at 312 West 36th Street. It’s in two acts, offers some chuckles and steadily goes downhill after the intermission.
David Smith (Stanley Bahorek) works for theatrical producer Judy Siff (Alix Corey) – a wealthy woman who hasn’t a clue as to which script to choose that will result in the hit that has eluded her thus far. Her taste in clothes is terrific (thanks to costume designer Matthew Hemesath). She has recently lost all her wealth in some Ponzi scheme.
David is a gay playwright and wants Judy to at least read his script. He meets up with a part time worker at Kinkos (Amy – Havilah Brewster) who also works part time for Judy’s sister Mimi (Emily Zacharias) – a soap star who wants to develop a cabaret act and who treats her maid Astrud (Lori Gardner) like a slave.
The sisters haven’t spoken in years. Mimi has the resources to get the money to produce David’s show from a Jewish philanthropic organization if she stars and if the writer is Jewish. Which David is not. And so Mimi and Judy jointly find a guy – Avi Aviv (Juri Henley-Cohn) to pose as the author. Avi is the type to sleep his way to the top with one and all and eventually is lauded as the author, director and star of David’s show and appears in Act II in his briefs.
In flash back we see why Mimi and Judy haven’t spoken in years. Lori Gardner as Young Judy and Havilah Brewster as young Mimi are really hysterical in portraying the young siblings in some wonderfully written scenes.
David tries in vain to reclaim his authorship of the piece. The plot is zany but implausible, veering on the ridiculous in not a very amusing way. The writers are targeting a certain type of female producer and Alix Korey is brilliant in her portrayal with sublime comic timing.
The play becomes a hit and from what we hear of it – that would be impossible. It’s not very good. So we are left with a limp satire on the perils of producing, the perils of a writer who obviously has never heard of the Dramatist’s Guild and who relinquishes control of his property. There is a surprise twist of an ending which doesn’t really improve matters greatly.
Director, Mark Waldrop, keeps things going at a fast clip on the exceptional set designed by Ray Klausen which is clever and creative. More so than the script. I had high hopes but they were quickly dashed. www.abingdontheatre.org