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The Schmooze

Recording Misery for Coping’s Sake

On October 30, the one-man theatrical adaptation of Benny Barbash’s novel “My First Sony” premiered in Seattle with two performances, the first in Hebrew, and the second in English. Performed by Roy Horovitz, the play revolves around Yotam, a precocious 11-year-old who copes with his crumbling family life by recording every painful event on his Sony tape recorder.

Yotam and his family live in Tel Aviv, but the bittersweet misery that they experience is universal. Yotam’s father, Assaf, is a failed playwright and the sort of man who seduces his friends’ wives and cheats even on his mistresses. He treats Yotam with intense affection — he gives him the eponymous tape recorder — as well as utter disgust. He even destroys his son’s first Sony because Yotam is fat.

Yotam is, unsurprisingly, an anxious mess. He punctuates his anguished yet humorous monologues with audio playback of his childhood traumas. These are not the only things being recorded, however. Yotam’s father is ghost writing the memoirs of Holocaust survivors, a fact which brings out the similarities and differences between mundane and extraordinary suffering, and the equally pressing emotional need to remember and to forget.

Although the play is supposed to take place during Yotam’s childhood, as interpreted by Horovitz, Yotam comes off as an emotionally stunted adult reliving the most scarring events of his formative years. That effect may be unintended, but it contributes to the poignance of the story. Horovitz has performed as Yotam for 14 years, yet he is still fresh and compelling. I saw only the English performance, and it is apparent that Horovitz is adjusting to the challenge of playing the character in English. At times, his anxiety about language enhances his characterization; at other times, his discomfort pushes the acting toward the histrionic. Horovitz was also working in a postage stamp-size performance space, which may have contributed to the overwrought qualities of his portrayal.

“My First Sony” has been adapted for Israeli television and as a multi-character play. It has not, to my knowledge, been adapted as an audio drama. But, the intimate nature of the play, the fact that it is a one-man show, and the central use of audio recordings make it ideal for the L.A. Theatre Works treatment.

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