Aiming for the 'new normal'

Israeli actor Yuval Boim stars in a short, farcical film suited to the economically challenged times.

Yuval Boim 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yuval Boim 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Recessions may not be good for artists, but they can be good for art - particularly if it serves up the kind of gallows humor everyone can relate to. While Hollywood studio chiefs may still be inviting scorn by pressing ahead with Confessions of a Shopahalic - starring Sasha Baron Cohen fiancee Isla Fisher - and another splashy Sex and the City sequel at a time when $40 canvas Converse sneakers seem more apropos than $1,200 Manolo Blahniks, independent filmmakers are moving to fill the void with films tethered to viewers' uncomfortable new reality. Among them is Abbie Cancelled, a new short film starring Israeli actor Yuval Boim that screened at this winter's Sundance Film Festival, and which director Jessica Burstein hopes to bring to the Jerusalem Film Festival this July. On the surface, it's a drawing-room comedy about two apparently successful Brooklyn couples who wind up stuck together at dinner after their mutual friends back out at the last minute. Underneath, it's a farce fit for the times, with one of the women earnestly angling for help getting into the TV business without realizing the other has just been laid off from her job at the cable network HBO - while the two men disappear into the basement to get high. "It's a comedy of social awkwardness," said Boim, who plays the unwitting Grayson, who is too busy studiously avoiding the demands of adulthood - getting married, having children - to notice his girlfriend of nine years is falling apart. "You forget reality - you think you'll get to New York and it'll all work out," he told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on a recent, sub-freezing New York day. At 32, Boim has already lived through a cycle of recession in New York, along with the usual odd-job stints of any young actor - in his case, including a spell as a nanny and Hebrew tutor for an American couple who wanted their children to speak the language fluently, along with the de rigueur catering and waitering gigs. As a child, he said, he always knew he wanted to perform, and he pestered his parents to sign him up for acting classes in Herzliya, which led to auditions in Tel Aviv. At 13, he landed a role on a children's show but didn't get to play the part because his father, an aviation security expert, had taken a job in Houston, Texas. "I thought I would never act again," said Boim, who instead lost his thick accent and wound up attending acting conservatories in Boston and London. In a decade in New York, he has performed in films, television and onstage, most recently as Tzachi, the Israeli truth-teller in last year's off-Broadway run of Mike Leigh's play Two Thousand Years - a kvetch comedy about a secular Diaspora Jewish family divided over one son's turn to religious observance and between left- and right-wing sympathies on the Palestinian issue. Boim is also working with a troupe to develop a set of "chamber plays" that could be performed without props or sets in people's homes, rather than expensively staged in theaters. Like medieval tummlers, the actors will draw keys to determine who plays which character for the evening. "The point is to evoke a feeling," he said - whether by literal physical proximity through live staging, or, in the case of Abbie Cancelled, by creating the recognizable 2009 equivalent of the neurotic, high-strung New Yorkers Woody Allen caricatured more than 30 years ago in Annie Hall. "But film is funny," he added. "You just never know."