So, it's been a long time between bar mitzvah invitations? Feeling left out?
Before you can say "chopped liver," the Fells Point Cabaret Theater has the answer to your problems. There's no need to wait for an invitation to "Bernie's Bar Mitzvah": You pay to get in -- $65 on Fridays and Saturdays or $55 on Sundays.
This hefty sum gets you an open bar, a fairly decent Kosher-style meal and a chance to share with strangers the celebration that follows the coming-of-age ceremony of someone you've never met.
Howard Perloff, who produced the Baltimore run of "Tony n' Tina's Wedding," has now donned the hats of writer and director in an attempt to apply the same formula to another ritual and culture. The possibilities seem endless. After this, he could try "Shlomo's Bris," or, turning to another ethnic group, "O'Malley's Wake."
But judging from "Bernie's Bar Mitzvah," neither seems likely. One virtue of this audience-participation event is that it is more tasteful than "Tony n' Tina." Not only is the religious service omitted, but you won't get caught in a food fight or end up mopping wine out of your shoe.
There's a trade-off, though. In this case, more taste means less drama. Attending "Bernie's Bar Mitzvah" is more like paying to go to a party than participating in a play.
The event does include a smattering of incidents staged by the cast of more than 30. Far too many of these concern sex: Bernie's sister, a Madonna-wannabe, is carrying on with a waiter; his aunt's first husband, a philandering dermatologist, is discussed ad nauseam; even the rabbi launches into a prolonged speech about circumcision and sexual performance.
Recognizing that most people put on an act at parties anyway, there are still several realistic performances, including those of Leslie B. Gold as Bernie's mom, Barney Cohen as his paternal grandfather, and especially Linda Jones as the family maid; the only time the place really jumps is when she sits in with the band and belts out "Respect."
But perhaps the best proof that this is more party than play is that one of the most enjoyable aspects turned out to be a typical party experience -- chatting with some of the other "guests." Dr. Samuel Hanik and his wife of 55 years drove up from Rockville in heavy fog with four friends. This bubbly couple was more fun than some of the cast. Three hours with Bernie's kin was more than enough, but a few hours with Sam and Esther was a delight.
"Bernie's Bar Mitzvah" continues at the Fells Point Cabaret Theater weekends through Dec. 15; call 327-8800.