SALT LAKE CITY — I am neither Jewish nor Christian, so seeing a Jewish-themed show at a Christian church was not something I was convinced I was going to enjoy or relate to at all. Well, Beau Jest, at Parable Productions is very enjoyable, and very relateable to anyone who hopes to maintain any human relationship.
James Sherman’s comedy focuses on the mixed-up love life and familial relationships of Sarah Goldman (Marissa Poole), a Jewish kindergarten teacher obsessed with pleasing her parents. Unfortunately, pleasing her parents means dating a nice Jewish boy, and Sarah’s current boyfriend isn’t just a Gentile–his name is Chris Kringle. Rather than risk her parents’ disapproval, Sarah tells them that she’s broken up with Chris and has met the perfect guy, Dr. David Steinberg. All goes well as Sarah continues to date Chris on the sly, until her parents want to meet her fictitious beau. Sarah doesn’t come clean, though. Instead, she gets Bob, an out-of-work actor who’s moonlighting as a professional escort, to play the role. This just further complicates the situation, as Sarah’s parents and Sarah herself start to get attached to Bob—who, by the way, isn’t Jewish either.
Beau Jest was produced by Parable Productions. It is a community theater housed in Calvary Chapel in Salt Lake City. It’s a wonderful and welcoming facility. There is a coffee shop in the lobby, so there is a plethora of snacks and drinks to enjoy at the theater. The snacks were better and less expensive than at a movie theater. The actual theater and staging area is modest. The set for the play was a standard 1990’s home. It didn’t seem to me that there were actual walls to hang the apartment setting pictures on, so there were a series of paintings hung by strings coming out of the ceiling. This was distracting a bit. The furniture pieces were sufficient, but a little lackluster. The costumes were another thing that felt a bit inconsistent, especially for the young lady. Her first several costumes looked more like the ’80s to me, and like something a grandma, not an attractive girl on the prowl for a husband, would wear. Just as I got used to her look, she entered the stage in her last scene in leggings and bright colored shirts that were very reminiscent of the ’90s. She looked like a completely different character.
When the show began, I knew immediately that the cast was very capable. I liked Josh Shimizu as Chris, the Christian boyfriend. He had a sarcastic tone that had threads of desperation as he futilely tried to convince Sarah that her plan wasn’t a good idea. He nicely portrayed the vulnerable boyfriend about to turn his love over to another man for a night. Nancy Jensen and Neal Barth were lovely as the parents. Jensen’s accent wasn’t consistently present, but her charm made up for it. I do not have an overbearing Jewish mother who interferes in my love life, but she made me really see what that would be like in a very convincing way. I felt for her daughter. Ren Shore as the brother felt a little flat to me. His line delivery seemed to be, for the most part, in the same tone with the same feeling. Whether he was meeting the fake boyfriend or after he learned the truth, there seemed to be no difference in his performance or emotion. Wouldn’t you have a different tone if you were confronting a man who had been deceiving you? He was still adequate, but I think he would do well to feel more comfortable on the stage. The romantic leads were delightful. They had very good chemistry, and were skilled in comic delivery. They have a particular moment when the relationship comes to a bit of a head, and I loved them in this moment. I am a sucker for love stories and they played the romance very well with just the perfect slow down right before the kiss. They were both very charming, and I found them believable in their roles.
Overall, the show was delightful. Director Annie Fields played up the family element very well. The actors seemed to really polish the dynamic between each character, and there weren’t moments that seemed fake to me as the family interacted. On the other hand, I feel like this script had more potential for laugh-out-loud comedy. Instead, this show played more like light chuckles. There were a few scenes involving Jewish religious ceremonies. These were very interesting. I have never seen a Passover dinner and it was not only very fascinating to watch, but handled with great respect. Based on what was written in the program, the director took great care in making it authentic. This was a welcome element for me.
This is a show I would recommend, especially for a date or with family. If you like a good, light romantic comedy, you will like this show. I also felt like this was a theater company I would want to support. It was done well, and respectfully, talented actors, and a nice refreshing way to see a show, housed in a church. I even donated before I left. We should all support this type of grassroots performance arts.
[/box]Beau Jest, produced by Parable Productions, plays at Calvary Chapel (460 W. 4350 S., Salt Lake City) nightly through September 19 at 7:00 PM. Tickets are $5. For more information, visit www.parableproductions.org.[/box]