Written and Performed by Barry Levey; Directed by Jeremy Gold Kronenberg
Produced by Questing Beast Productions
Part of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, New Solo Show
Runs through 8.21.14
64E4 UNDERGROUND, 64 East 4th Street
by Shani R Friedman on 8.18.14
Barry Levey in Hoaxocaust!. Photo by Dixie Sheridan.
BOTTOM LINE: A thought-provoking, very topical satire on Judaism, identity and current events in Israel.
“Barry,” Levey’s fictional stand, sets the tone for his phantasmagoric odyssey at the start by announcing to the crowd that he got into the fest at the last minute, thanks in part to assistance from The Institute for Political and International Studies in Tehran (which is -- wink wink -- noted prominently in the program). He explains that he’s just come back from a crazy trip set in motion by his brother getting engaged to an Algerian woman. The significance of this becomes clear when Barry talks about growing up in a liberal, secular household in Beachwood, OH, which is “83% Jewish and every family there had a relative who died in the Holocaust.” The impending marriage brings out the family’s dormant xenophobia and ignites racist feelings about Arabs both in the little picture (the potential for the children to not be raised Jewish) and on a global scale as they argue over the treatment of Palestinians while watching the conflict in Israel unfold. His Gentile boyfriend Anthony (Barry’s first real boyfriend) decides he doesn’t want to be around their hatred and opts out of going to the wedding and they break up.
Questioning what he sees as his family and Jewish people’s over-reliance on the Holocaust as a justification for their beliefs and sense of victim-hood -- that he thinks gives Holocaust deniers fodder for skepticism -- he sets off to confront some of the more famous (all real figures) of this lot, and his own evolving ideas about certain long-held Holocaust truths. He meets with tenured Northwestern Professor Arthur Butz, whose focus is on the disputed number of victims. When Butz tells him his figure is more like 300,000 Barry cracks, “there were more than that in the attic with Anne Frank.” He does wonder if he could have a conversation with his mother about the Holocaust where she’s able to divorce herself from the number six million. As he descends further down the rabbit hole, he gets an audience with author David Irving and disgraced Professor Robert Faurisson before landing in Iran for a friendly chat with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The former President, he notes, generously got his entire plane fare reimbursed.
Levey originally created a version of this show several years ago, without the additional layer of connecting the Holocaust to the round-the-clock coverage of the latest bloodshed in Israel. When it played it New York previously he heard from those who thought he was promoting the deniers and also from actual denialists who thought Levey was giving them a voice. I can only imagine the emotions Levey is going to tap into now. His show will no doubt strike a nerve with Fringe attendees but he skillfully raises questions about religion and politics with humor, earning laughs from a subject that many might think is too sacred to get such a treatment. For those looking for a show with substance, Levey makes for a compelling inclusion in the festival.
(Hoaxocaust! plays at Paradise Factory Theatre, 64 East 4th Street, through August 21, 2014. Remaining performances are Tuesday 8/19 at 6PM and Thursday 8/21 at 9:30PM. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more show info visit hoaxocaust.com.)