Appel (High Holiday Sutra, 1997) offers another tale of the lighter/darker side of spiritual hunger, this time in the story of an evangelical restaurateur on Manhattan's heavily Jewish Upper West Side.
Sam, Mike and Gerry are three middle-aged Jewish guys who live quite happily with their non-Jewish wives in a brownstone in the West 80s. Friends since college but now nearing 50, the three couples have a seemingly idyllic life that’s a throwback to the communal spirit of the 1960s. The only minor speed bumps on their highway of happiness are the inability of the three wives to find a successful tenant for the commercial space on the ground floor and Gerry’s inability to give his wife Marylee a child. Then along comes William Harp, determined to succeed in the former endeavor where others (most recently the unfortunately named Curry by Murray) have failed. Harp’s high-concept restaurant is designed to sell Christianity to Manhattan’s Jews and thereby hasten the End of Time. Marylee, who has had a vision of Christ all her own after breast cancer surgery, falls in with Harp’s project with increasing abandon, and the pleasant complacency of the sextet is shattered completely. Where High Holiday Sutra began as a stridently tongue-in-cheek story that gradually and devastatingly shifted into tragic mode, Club Revelation swerves all over the road as wildly as Gerry drives his aging Toyota. Here, the tale seems to be organized around the principle that no serious moment, however deeply felt, should be left sustained for more than a few pages before it's slipped into sitcom humor once again. The result is frustratingly unsatisfying as Appel dashes toward—and then away from—intense feeling.
A strangely passive-aggressive performance that undercuts its own best moments.