How do you know when you’re an adult? How do you celebrate life along the way? During Dan Plonsey’s Bar Mitzvah, a ritual-bending performance at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, composer Dan Plonsey muses on these questions. He concludes that his adulthood was confirmed after he had been teaching math for five years, and that having a Bar Mitzvah at 52 would be a way to renew and celebrate life.
In reinventing a tradition, the Dan Plonsey Bat Mitzvah Band, an eccentric family, a fan club of math students and Bar Mitzvah Barry, played by director Eric Kupers, join Plonsey for a chaotic and musical ceremony Sunday afternoon. The Bar Mitzvah begins traditionally, with speakers taking turns at the podium, however the ceremony quickly gives way to bizarre family moments, animated dance theater numbers and confessional monologues offering a zany and spirited ride for the audience.
Plonsey’s music is the festive heart of the production and occasionally stirs the chaos. At one point a procession of clarinet players circles the audience, while the dance artists of Dandelion Dancetheater whirl in the center of the room. A square of hardwood floor, like those of hotel ballrooms, screams family function and one can feel the breeze of performers darting at close range.
Plonsey’s sons, Cleveland and Mischa, sit on an elevated platform with the band, their expressions of ennui priceless. They seem unimpressed to be wearing suits, and during the performance they slump, twirl a Frisbee and play electronic games.
Video projections reveal private moments of family members as they exit into the hallway. Absurd scenes like the math club’s “equilateral triangle dance” add to the dizzying blur of performance and ritual. And so the audience sings Oseh Shalom, passes the challah bread and joins hands for a circle dance.
Originally published July 14, 2010 on Examiner.com