Problems appeared to have been solved for the Off-Broadway show, Boychik when the Richard Krevolin play resumed performances March 7 after a 3-week hiatus. But appearances were deceiving. The show closed for good March 30 after running 8 previews and 43 regular performances.
"We were not able to keep it going," producer Michael Mann told Playbill On-Line. "We raised it [the show]; we re-raised it. We couldn't raise enough money to keep it going. We did raise some, but we couldn't get through the initial period -- those 5-6 weeks when you need to build word-of-mouth and group sales. We certainly tried."
Asked about future plans for the show, Mann said, "We're talking about doing it in Florida or on the road. But first we're licking our wounds and putting it to sleep. I'll say this: everybody who saw the play was moved by it."
Mann and the other producers first put Boychik on "hiatus", ostensibly because star Richard Kline needed to fly home for his daughter's Bat Mitzvah, but mainly because the show was underfunded and unable to pay its bills.
After three weeks of fundraising and reorganizing, Boychik made good on enough outstanding debts to start up again. Mann then told Playbill On-Line the show has raised "enough to go forward" and plans to resume the drama's open-ended run. Richard Krevolin's play was about a middle-aged man rediscovering his Jewish identity through memories of his religious father. The show opened for a commercial run Feb. 6 at Off-Broadway's Theatre Four.
Previews were delayed a week due to the death of director Max Mayer's father, but that was only the first problem to plague this one-man show, which stars Kline, best known as the smarmy neighbor, Larry, on TV's "Three's Company."
Reviews were mixed-to-good for the play, and quite good for star Kline, but on Feb. 11, the show announced it would be going on hiatus. Spokesperson Kate Cambridge (of Cromarty & Company) told Playbill On Line the show was under-capitalized and short on funds. "And the heartbreak of it is, the show definitely has an audience," Cambridge said. "They're totally into it and even stay for Q&A sessions after the show's over."
Asked about why a one-man show would have such financial difficulties, Theatre Four box office manager Bill Fitzgerald said, "Well, the producers aren't here; they're in L.A. And it's hard to tell what your "nut" (break-even point) is going to be until you've run five-six weeks." The payment problems, however, don't affect Fitzgerald because he works for the theatre owners rather than the producers.
Asked whether the show was under-capitalized, Mann said, "We came in minimally capitalized, and then we lost a part of our investor as we were loading in."
Kline has been honing Richard Krevolin's play in readings and staged readings, the first of which took place Sept. 18, 1995 at a synagogue in Los Angeles. "I think the piece has gotten even better," Kline told Playbill On-Line. "It's more of a play now, rather than a series of reminiscences."
Boychik tells of a middle-aged, American Jew dealing with his emotions after the death of his scholarly father. Though Larry refuses to follow the Jewish traditions of saying Kaddish and lighting the Yahrtzeit candle, he's prodded into a new understanding of his dad by sorting through his father's personal effects.
Even though he's not the author of Boychik, Kline finds parallels in the work to his own life: "My own experiences with Judaism were kind of similar...the idea of growing up and going away to college. My parents were Reformed, so I basically had the choice of Hebrew school or Little League (classes were on the same days). I figured I had a better chance of playing shortstop for the Yankees than becoming a Rabbi, so..." Not surprisingly, ý favorite moment in the play has to do with Little League: "I get to play a gruff, foul-mouthed coach and three other characters."
Kline found himself moving back into Judaism 12 years ago when it was time to put his daughter into a local Hebrew day-school. "Now we see her sing every Friday night at temple."
Kline, who recently played the title character in Goodspeed Opera House's mounting of Andrew Lloyd Webber's By Jeeves, has worked at Lincoln Center, the NY Shakespeare Festival and DC's Kennedy Center. He appeared as Buddy on Broadway in City Of Angels and in the Canadian national tour of Neil Simon's Jake's Women. In 1996 Kline won the Los Angeles Drama Critic's Circle Award for directing Noel Coward's Present Laughter at the Melrose Theatre.
Playwright Krevolin's The Law Of Return was performed by Shelly Berman at the Streisand Festival, and his 1992 comedy, Love Is Like Velcro won the USC One-Act Play Festival.
Max Mayer has staged plays at the Atlantic and WPA Theatres and is the artistic director of the Double Image Company. He has twice won the Helen Hayes Award as best director (1989's The Fairy Garden, 1991's My Children, My Africa).
Sets were by Thomas Lynch (Having Our Say, The Heidi Chronicles), lighting by Jeff Croiter, sound by Guy Sherman of Aural Fixation, costumes by Tommy Hilfiger.
--By David Lefkowitz