The romantic comedy Beau Jest, which opened at Pierson Playhouse on January 12 is delightful. There truly is not enough love and laughter in the country today, and the actors give the audience several hours of happy respite from national and world news.
Sarah Goldman (Jasmine Haver), a kindergarten teacher, tries hard to please her parents with an appropriate suitor choice. But alas, Chris Cringle (Thomas James), her current boyfriend is not quite the son-in-law her Jewish parents might approve, so she hires a “escort” to pretend to be the Jewish man she is dating.
With the escort service she specifies a Jewish male, and Daniel Schroeder (Jeff Coppage) is sent to her door.
Unfortunately, although his name sounds Jewish, he’s not. Coppage is an actor who has decided that escorting elderly women to the opera is an easier gig than waiting tables, while waiting for his big break. When he shows at her door with flowers, he expects he will be paid to take an older woman to dinner. He’s shocked to meet her boyfriend and to find out she’s young.
Sarah is horrified because this man won’t understand any of the customs and she’ll be found out, she’ll disappoint her parents. He reassures her that he’s an actor, this would just be another role. More importantly there’s no time to get a replacement.
In less than a minute, she tells the actor everything he is supposed to know about the family, and the couple’s relationship.
Then, her parents, the Goldman’s Miriam (Laura Goldstein) and Abe (Lou Saliba) arrive at the door, with her adult brother (James Jobs), for a family dinner.
Coppage is a gem, as he “acts” his way through the family dinner, calling on a past role on Fiddler on the Roof to help fill in on his lack of knowledge on the traditions of a Shabbat dinner.
He does so well, and mom and dad like him, that Sarah hires him “one more time” for a Passover Seder dinner.
Understandably, her boyfriend is not happy about the deception and doesn’t understand why Sarah doesn’t tell the truth.
This reviewer loved Miriam and Abe—the two actors bickered almost constantly, but in such a way that you could tell that this marriage was built on love and respect. If Mariam suggested one location, Abe would say it was a different location. Well done, Laura and Lou.
I laughed out loud at the family seder, as Coppage bluffs his way through the tradition, Saliba just wants to eat and James deflects questions from his mom (Goldstein) about how his children are celebrating Passover, since he’s divorced, now. Haver is lovely as she just tries to please everyone.
The actors work well together and the timing, which is essential in a comedy, was great.
The interchange between Copage and James, two gentiles fighting to see who is more Jewish, was highly entertaining.
The play was written by James Sherman in 1990 and one wonders if an interfaith marriage is still a controversial topic, or is the play dated? The director Jonathan Fahn put it in perspective in his notes: “Sarah is navigating between fulfilling familial expectations and following her heart’s desires . . . and her attempts to please everyone.”
How many of us have held something from a parent because we didn’t think they’d like to hear it? How many secrets have you kept from family members in an effort to earn approval?
Fahn wrote, “Ultimately, my aim is to create a production that entertains while provoking contemplation about the significance of honesty, familial bonds, and the pursuit of genuine happiness.”
Once again, Theatre Palisades provides a well-cast, superbly acted, first-rate production. The play will run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sunday at 2 p.m. through February 18. Tickets are $22 for adults and $20 for seniors and students. https://theatrepalisades.org or call (310) 454-1970.