July 21, 2024
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Black Box Performing Arts Center Presents ‘Twist of Faith’

Nestled in a small theater in the heart of the Queen Anne Shopping District in Teaneck, Black Box Performing Arts Center offers a venue that is both intimate and entertaining. Currently running every Tuesday night, “Twist of Faith,” a comedy/drama written and directed by Michael Gurin and based on an original concept by Matt Okin, is a two-man show starring Jake Levine and Joseph Ramondino. After touring the United States and Canada from 1997-2000, “Twist of Faith” ran Off-Broadway in New York City for nine months in 2001.

The story opens in Boro Park, Brooklyn, where a young man, Jewish by name only, is stranded in a blizzard with a broken-down car, and by chance stumbles upon an Orthodox young man on his way to services. Sam and Baruch, whose lives could not be more different, are forced to spend the Sabbath together. While Baruch is gentle, and cautiously attempts to expose Sam to what Baruch sees as the beauty in life, Sam, a wealthy young stock trader is cynical to most religious-based philosophies presented to him. Perhaps the only thing the two men can unite over is a good bottle of shnapps!

As the story unfolds, Baruch is crushed by a series of life-altering events while at the same time Sam is creating a new life of religious observance, embracing the very faith that Baruch is abandoning. Both Levine and Ramondino embody their respective parts in such a believable way that the audience can actually feel the shifting of their onstage personalities. Each actor offers a convincing and emotional performance of the life he is living at that moment, almost appearing as if each one is playing two different roles.

When asked what connected him to the play, Gurin explained, “It seems to me that the inner workings of faith are not often explored in contemporary theater—there may be a general assumption that art and religion don’t go together or don’t go together well, which, if true, would be ironic, since theater’s deepest roots are undoubtedly religious. ‘Twist of Faith’ tries to present a case that confronting issues of faith remains an essential part of the human condition and makes for any number of intense, individual struggles. Those struggles are worth writing about, and in doing so I hope the play will be evaluated primarily for it’s qualities (or lack of qualities) as a play, rather than for its religious content or themes per se.”

This is a story about people and change and how fragile life can be. Through a series of bad luck, Baruch is broken and downtrodden while at the same time Sam has been spiritually uplifted by the light of Judaism.

“‘Twist of Faith’ tackles faith in a universal and honest way. As the actor, I am not trying to give you the answers to your questions. It is my hope that after seeing the play, through self-reflection, you are able to feel more strongly about your convictions or more comfortable in your doubts about them,” commented Jake Levine, who plays the role of Sam.

Ultimately one’s faith can be tested by life’s occurrences, but whatever your belief, this play speaks to the audience about inner battles many grapple with on a regular basis and the importance of finding eternal peace.

Huey Esquire, co-founder of Black Box Performing Arts Center and producer for “Twist of Faith,” shared his personal thoughts about the production. “‘Twist of Faith’ speaks to me, even as a non-Jew, because it places faith—in this case, Judaism, but frankly, any faith could be substituted—squarely under a microscope and pokes, prods and even ridicules it. The shortcomings of faith are highlighted alongside the strengths, and rather than be preachy and tell the audience what to think or feel, we are left to make our own decisions about our personal faith. Much like Sam and Baruch, a person of strong faith might emerge with questions, while one of little faith might find his or her faith bolstered. In the same vein, a person with little or no faith might be sufficiently intrigued to explore her or his spiritual life. Such is the subtle magic of `Twist of Faith.’”

“Twist of Faith” is a serious performance with its fair share of humor infused therein. Black Box Studios is a unique acting studio and performance space Teaneck residents and beyond should certainly experience.

“With `Twist of Faith,’ Black Box Studios begins efforts to provide entertaining and challenging theater that ‘speaks’ to the observant Jewish community on an ongoing basis. We believe the themes in this show—and in others that will follow—are more timely today then ever, and a new generation of theatergoers can now enjoy this material alongside those who might be familiar with earlier incarnations of the show and its sequels,” expressed Matt Okin, Artistic Director and Co-founder of Black Box performing Arts Center. The play can be seen Tuesday nights at 9:15 through January 10, and if you arrive a few minutes prior to showtime you can enjoy some complimentary warm apple cider. For more information on this venue or other Black Box productions, please visit blackboxpac.com.

By Andrea Nissel

 

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