EAST VILLAGE — Long before there was Team Edward and Team Jacob, there was Team Zack and Team Slater — and now fans of the hit 90s sitcom "Saved by the Bell" can root for their teen heartthrobs in an Off-Off-Broadway play.
"Bayside! The UnMusical!," a fluorescent-T-shirt filled parody running at the Kraine Theatre on East Fourth Street from May 9 - 19, takes the sitcom's fans right back to a time when the hottest friends on TV were the gang that attended Bayside High.
"We are paying homage to them [the characters] by making fun of them," said Tobly McSmith, 31, of Williamsburg, who co-wrote the play with his cousin, Bob McSmith, 32, of Bushwick. Tobly McSmith spoke at a preview of the play on Monday.
The play is a spinoff of the hugely popular TV show, which followed teens through the trials and tribulations of high school. It ran from 1989 to 1993 and spawned the careers of "Showgirls" star Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie), TV host Mario López (AC Slater), crime drama star Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack Morris), Tiffani Thiessen (Kelly Kapowski), and Dustin Diamond (Screech).
This is the third time the cousins have given "Saved by the Bell" the stage treatment. The pair have used parts of their old script and reworked it for stage.
The McSmiths, both fans of the show, where inspired to add their own twist after seeing weeks of early morning reruns. They have been writing and directing together for nine years.
The play begins when the "SBTB" gang find out their one and only hangout burger joint called "the Max" is closing. The crew rallies together to save it, and hilarity ensues — a plot familiar to fans of the show.
However, the McSmiths used their imagination to put a spin on what was really going on at Bayside High.
"We definitely think that Slater was gay," said Tobly McSmith, whose play is sprinkled with musical numbers in which hard-bodied jock Slater questions his sexuality.
"It is downtown theater. It's edgy. It's fun."
Among the other challenges facing the characters are pregnancy, addiction to prescription pills and abortion. The play also takes a flippant approach to issues with sexuality, race and religion.
"We want the audience to laugh a lot and even learn something," said Bob McSmith. "The aim of comedy is to be offensive."
Both cousins are on stage the entire performance with two guitars creating the soundtrack for the musical numbers.
"Our goal in all things is to put on something that we would watch," said Tobly McSmith. "It's an hour long and it's $15."
Screech — the school nerd with a mop of curly dark hair and, as the name suggests, a high-pitched screeching voice — is played by Rachel Witz, an Upper West Side actress.
Witz, who works as an administrative assistant while acting at night, said it took some work making the adjustment to her character.
With both a speaking and singing role, the actress said "doing the voice" does take its toll, but switching to a teenage boy is no problem.
"My voice does hurt by the end of the night," said Witz, who said she appreciates that Screech is well-liked, but naive to the jokes that are often at his expense.
"Everyone picks on him, but everyone can relate to him."
She said she didn't mind being cast as the most awkward character.
"I have his looks especially with the wig on," Witz admitted. "You have to be honest with yourself, with who you look like and what roles you can play."