(New York Jewish Week) — For any New Yorker, the background noise of the 2000s may well have been marked by the numbers 800-888-8888, the ubiquitous jingle for the Buffalo-based personal injury law firm Cellino and Barnes.
The renown of Ross Cellino and Stephen Barnes grew even more when the pair contentiously split up in 2017. Their acrimonious business divorce included clashes over managing the business, a restraining order against Cellino, claims of “bullying” by Barnes and a complaint that Barnes refused to let Cellino hire his own daughter.
Naturally, comedy writers Michael Breen and David Rafailedes needed to write a show about what might have gone down, including a scene about how that infamous jingle came into existence.
Breen and Rafailedes had performed the show, “Cellino v. Barnes,” a handful of times in New York in 2020 before the pandemic shut it down. Breen moved to California and Rafailedes headed to grad school and the play they wrote about a unique New York sensation almost faded into the ether.
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But this isn’t that story. This is the story of how two 25-year-old high school buddies and amateur theater producers made sure that didn’t happen — and how they leaned on their synagogues to get the job done.
David Pochapin and Cameron Koffman were 22 when they saw “Cellino v. Barnes.” They loved the show for the way it spoke to their sense of humor, their New York childhoods and their love of niche theater. The pair would eventually take on the task of producing the play and teaming up with Breen and Rafailedes to bring it to a wider audience, this time in a vacant office space in Manhattan to really give