TORONTO — Rabbi Sam Isaac wants to reinvent Judaism and begins with his new congregation, whose members are not at all too happy with his plans.
This is the premise of Teatron Toronto Jewish Theatre’s Canadian première of Charlie Varon’s comedy Rabbi Sam.
“It is about a guy who is trying to do something with the bigger picture that he sees in his world,” says Toronto actor Ron Boyd, who plays the title role.
Boyd says that the play pokes your brain and makes you think about organized religion and tradition, with the message being that the way things are done doesn’t have to be the way things have to be done.
“Rabbi Sam has a vision, he has an idea of what he wants for his own experience and thinks it can be applied to everyone. He is mainly motivated by what he wants to impart to his son, and as a religious experience, tying his Judaism into himself.”
Boyd says that Rabbi Sam’s message about religion is that you can take elements and move forward with your own ideas and change things and make it relevant to yourself.
“I don’t think that people are going to walk away and reinvent themselves completely,” says Boyd. “It is not that kind of transformative event, but it does give you something to think about in the way that you approach your traditions and the way you think about religion.”
Boyd says there are a lot of meaty sermon pieces full of deep thoughts in the play. “Mainly what Rabbi Sam is trying to do is to make it a magic experience and take what has happened in the community in the past and apply it to a forward-thinking movement. I like that idea, and I find that there is some resonance in having that deeper connection of where you want to be spiritually.”
The actor, a divorced father of two, says that being Jewish hasn’t influenced his life choices, but is a part of who he is and is present for him in every moment. He reflects by quoting a line from the play, “The deeper river which I am a part of.”
Boyd says that “taking on the role of a rabbi is pretty interesting because I have to do it with respect but also bring some of me into it. It is a weird balancing thing since I am not… a rabbi.
“With any character that you create, you have to find what resonates with you in that character and then apply that on top of what you think that character should roll out as. So, I can’t play him as me, because it doesn’t work. I colour him with bits of me,” Boyd continues.
“I think he’s a lot deeper than I am, which is a good thing to plumb, to be able to put my colours on top of that spiritual drive, laser conviction and ballsy confidence… put that coat on and wear it for a while is fun to play with.”
Boyd, a freelance illustrator by day, caught the acting bug a decade ago while performing with Holy Blossom Stagecraft Company. He garnered the principal role in the web-based series Star Trek New Voyages, was in an episode of CTV’s Corner Gas and in the independent film Judas Kiss.
Originally produced in the United States as a one-man play starring the playwright, Rabbi Sam, running Jan. 3 to 13 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts Studio Theatre, directed by Ari Weisberg, has a full cast joining Boyd.
Boyd previously performed for Teatron in The Dybbuk, Bluish, Kosher Lutherans, A Hamburger in a Pita, Deceived and Can I Really Date a Guy Who Wears a Yarmulke? His cast mates include Bob Cooper, Martin Edmonds, Edith Acker, Leah Charney, Julie Cohn, Arie Eigner, Brian Epstein and Marion Hirschberg.
Tickets for Rabbi Sam are available at the Toronto Centre for the Arts box office, by calling 416-781-5527 or online at www.teatrontheatre.com.