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Theater Review: "Beau Jest"

Jason Heil, Ross Hellwig, Omri Schein, Sandy Campbell and Erika Phillips.
Photo credit:
Lamb’s Players Theatre

Can a nice Jewish kindergarten teacher find love with a goyisch actor? Probably, unless her parents get in the way.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Teacher Sarah (Erika Ruth Phillips) already has a perfectly good goyisch bf in a tall blond WASP advertising account exec named Chris Cringle (Jason Heil). But she also has very Jewish parents she’s afraid to introduce Chris to.

What to do? She calls an escort service to rent a nice Jewish stand-in boyfriend to introduce to mom and dad. 

When Bob (Ross Hellwig) walks in for the birthday dinner at Sarah’s place, she is bowled over by his looks but horrified to learn that he isn’t Jewish either.

But with no time to call another sub, she christens him David Steinberg, and he says not to worry, he’s an actor who once played Perchik in “Fiddler On The Roof.”  Besides, he continues, “I took classes at Second City.”

As it happens, so did playwright James Sherman, whose farce “Beau Jest” plays through Feb. 12 at Lamb’s Players Theatre.

“Beau Jest” makes gentle but extremely repetitive fun of parental hopes and expectations for their children, and he’s chosen to filter them through a Jewish lens.

So, Sarah’s father Abe (John Rosen) makes several entrances complaining about parking problems, mom Miriam (Sandy Campbell) wants to know Sarah will be well taken care of, and both want their son-in-law to be Jewish. 

Sarah, in her zeal to get the parental unit off her back, announces that Bob, er, David is a doctor. You can imagine the conversation that leads to, especially when Sarah’s brother Joel (Omri Schein), a divorced psychologist, shows up.

Okay. I get it. There’s a good 30-minute sketch piece here. The problem is, there isn’t enough meat for a two-act play.

Fortunately, the cast is excellent and despite some too-old one-liners (“people are dying to get into that hospital”) and a tired subject, Director Kerry Meads makes sure they play this as if it were fresh material, and with actors like Omri Schein around (and those sweaters!), you can’t help but laugh.

Campbell and Rosen are convincing as the parents. Phillips and Hellwig are excellent as the conspirators who will turn out to be....well, you can guess. Jason Heil does well with a thankless part.

The tech team helps out, with Marty Burnett’s pink set design augmented by Jemima Dutra’s costumes (especially for Miriam, in a big wig and almost bigger ’80s glasses). Nathan Peirson and Deborah Gilmour Smyth contributes fine lighting and sound designs as well.

“Beau Jest” isn’t great theater, but it provides an amusing evening’s entertainment.

The details

“Beau Jest” plays through February 12, 2017 at Lamb’s Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado. 

Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; matinees Wednesday at 2:30 pm, Saturday at 4 pm, Sunday at 2 pm.

Tickets: (619) 437-6000 or lambsplayers.org