Raphael Poch has some innovative advice for singles looking to get married:
Write a play about the dating scene; the pitfalls, highlights and all of the
crazy experiences in between, and you just might find “the one” in the
The co-author and one of the stars of It’s Not You, Well, Maybe
It Is! showing this month at the Association of Americans and Canadians in
Israel JTown Playhouse, met his fiancé just a few months before he and co-author
Sura Shachnovitz seriously began working on the play, though it had long been
“It’s a segula [charm],” he says jokingly. “I suggest everyone
The play follows the dating lives of Danny (David Storfer), a
young Modern Orthodox man in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood, struggling to
find success in love, closely based on Poch; his ex-girlfriend Rachel (Netanya
Mischel) trying to figure out what she wants out of a relationship; and recently
widowed mother Rivka (Andrea Katz), based on Shachnovitz, who is experiencing a
complicated dating life in her 50s.
Interspersed throughout are real
stories of outlandish dates, dating advice and anxieties, conversations between
friends about boundaries in a physical relationship, love and what your shoes
say about you, and telephone messages from strangers trying to set the
characters up. Shachnovitz and Poch gathered all of their material from friends
and acquaintances and via Facebook crowd sourcing, though a solid chunk of the
stories are straight from Poch’s life.
“I had no end of people trying to
set me up,” says the 32-year-old, who has dated on and off since he was 19 and
says the show was therapeutic for him.
Israel, Poch says, may be worse
than anywhere else for less-than-personal set-ups. Old women on the bus,
strangers at the post office, the bank and everyone at his parents’ Neveh Daniel
settlement have tried to match him up with a daughter or a “Cousin Shira,” as
Danny puts it.
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Some of the dating stories in the play were just too
unbelievable, though, Poch says, adding that he had to “unrealify” them. In one,
cousins realize they’ve been set up with one another; in real life, it was
brother and sister. In another, Poch shares his experience going on a date with
a girl who is so traumatized by terrorism that she can only enjoy horror movies
Twice, Poch says, a girl wanted him to meet with her matchmaker
before going on a date with him, a hilarious conversation replayed in the
“Yes, you have to be open to new opportunities that are around
you,” he says, “but you don’t have to put yourself out there, face all this
rejection and dejection and make yourself jaded in order to find what it is
you’re working for.”
The play first showed at the Jewish-themed Stage One
Festival at Beit Avi Chai in March, and brings to light the honest experiences
and raw emotions we have all gone through in extending ourselves emotionally,
breaking someone else’s heart or getting our own heart broken.
director Eryn London appreciates the inter-generational play among Danny, Rivka,
her love interest Dave (Avraham Schlissel), Lilah (Penina Satlow) – Rivkah’s
teenage daughter, Susan (Mina Yocheved-Perskin) – a 20-something frustrated that
guys don’t see beyond her weight, and Rachel. The women of all ages bond and
share their experiences with one another.
“Girls’ night doesn’t mean
you’re with all your friends in a bar, but you’re with people who you respect
and trust and that’s who you’re going to get your advice from and comfort
from,” says London, 27, who has a masters in applied drama and teaches theater
at Emuna V’Omanoot, a seminary in Jerusalem that incorporates art.
the audience, seeing people of different ages spending time together is
realistic, she says.
“The majority of us don’t really live in the bubble
of just our age group,” she says, whether it be at work or in friendships.
London, who is Modern Orthodox, in particular understands this, as she works in
a nursing home as well, when she isn’t studying Talmud and Halacha (Jewish law)
at Midreshet Lindenbaum four days a week.
While the play is a different
one for London, who is used to directing Absurdist theater – two years ago she
directed The Skin of Our Teeth
by Thorton Wilder at the now defunct Merkaz
Hamagshimim – she enjoyed the challenge.
Still, she says, she relates to
the show on a personal level.
“It’s an interesting show, being someone
who lived in it,” she says. “There are scenes that make me want to cringe
because they’re too real, cringe because how could that happen in real life?”
Storfer, a believable guy who’s trying to change his approach when it comes to
women – “Sometimes I just feel like I’m in this communal meat market,” he says –
has great comedic timing and nails his facial expressions on awkward dates.
Mischel and Katz are incredibly relatable in portraying their indecisive,
thoughtful characters with great expression and delivery.
Both men’s and
women’s voices are heard, as Poch and Shachnovitz edited each other. They
considered writing a gay or lesbian relationship into the show, but Poch says
they were concerned they did not have the time and space to address it
However, the play does give expression to other voices not always
heard in the Modern Orthodox world; teenagers watching their mother dive into
the dating pool, overweight young women feeling unwanted, and
Perskin gives a fierce and inspiring delivery as the curvy
girl frustrated over her dating prospects.
“Everybody goes through this.
Everyone has their own ideas and opinions, their own inner voice. It’s just
about letting it out,” says Poch, who hopes the play will inspire conversation
among singles and matchmakers about appropriate set-up etiquette.
dream is to have 150 shadchanim [matchmakers] in here watching the show,” he
quips. “My message is really get to know the person. If you want to set someone
up, don’t just do it. We’re not pieces of meat hanging out. We’re not nebuch
cases that need your charity. You’re trying to involve yourself very deeply in
someone else’s personal life. That’s a big thing. Don’t take that
Schachnovitz has been a sort of self-appointed dating coach for
Poch, just as Rivka is for Danny, though he says in real life her advice did not
extend beyond shoe choice.
In his own story, Poch says he refused to sign
up on dating web sites, and that he does not believe in matchmaking or getting
set up by strangers. Though it was a dating website that brought him and his
future wife together. A friend of his who signed up for a dating website was
having trouble narrowing it down. Poch helped him settle on a young woman who
looked interesting, with a good personality and who was cute, he says. But their
date didn’t go so well.
His friend came home and suggested Poch take her
“You talk alike,” he told Poch, who called her soon after.
“I had a longer phone conversation with her than he had on their date,” he says.
After going on five dates in five days, and then dating for just under three
months, they got engaged.
Poch, who works as the artistic director of the
JTown Playhouse, says It’s Not You is the first play he’s successfully
completed, but it’s given him motivation to get his second one, about soldiers
in the IDF coming back for reserve duty five years later, completed this year.
He intends to crowd source for stories for this one as well.
like dating on a very similar level, is different for every single person. It
affects you in a close personal way.”
He hopes members of singles groups
like Beineinu of Young Israel and the Facebook group of singles, Shimgles, come
to the show and dialogue with the cast.
“We’re trying to encourage people
getting their voices out there and really talking about these issues,” he
London also would like to see conversations come out of the show,
and possibly show the audience what there is to celebrate about
“As potentially frustrating as dating might be it’s not always
horrible, or it’s nice to know that other people commiserate with you,” she
But for Poch, after years being single, now he has married life to
“I’m curious what it will be like being married,” he says.
“It’s something which on the one hand people look forward to, on the other hand
feel anxiety about.” Possibly material for a new play?
Performances: May 5, 8
and 12 at the AACI at 37 Pierre Koenig St., 4th floor, Talpiyot, Jerusalem. All
shows are at 8 p.m. Purchase tickets online at www.aaci.org.il or over the phone
at (02) 566-1181. AACI member and high school and college students: NIS 50.
Regular price: NIS 70.
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