Theatre Three’s ‘Beau Jest’ — Jewish guilt never felt so good
By Michael Tessler
Ever leave a theater feeling lighter than air? Theatre Three’s production of “Beau Jest” left me with this happy sensation I haven’t yet been able to shake.
Mary Powers masterfully directs an all-star cast in a perfectly paced stage comedy. Originally written by James Sherman, this show can best be described as a love child between “Fiddler on the Roof” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” And let me tell you, it makes for a beautiful combination.
Sarah Goldman, the show’s protagonist (and arguably antagonist) is the kind of girl my grandmother would have loved for me to date. Pretty, smart, successful, and most importantly … Jewish. Like so many children she’s torn between pleasing her parents while being true to herself. Played by the hard-not-to-love Jenna Kavaler, you can’t help but sympathize with this love-struck young woman whose biggest fear is hurting the ones she loves most.
Sarah is romantically involved with a man opposite of the “nice Jewish boy” stereotype. Chris Kringle is a marketing executive and Sarah’s secret boyfriend whom she hides from her overly traditional and protective family. Played with immense talent by Steven Uihlein, Chris just can’t seem to catch a break. As if being named after the North Pole’s most popular resident wasn’t bad enough, he finds himself in love with someone who cannot love him back — openly that is.
To make matters worse, Sarah finds herself hounded by her parents to the point where she invents a fake boyfriend. What started as a tiny lie quickly snowballs into an impossible to contain catastrophe. Her pretend boyfriend isn’t just Jewish, but he’s also a doctor, and a surgeon at that! Desperate to maintain the facade, Sarah hires Bob, a struggling actor turned male escort who is given the impossible task of pretending to be Sarah’s Jewish surgeon boyfriend. Brett Chizever is brilliant in his portrayal of Bob. Chizever can best be described as a master of comedic timing and expressions. He’ll have you in stitches before the show’s end.
Sarah’s mother, Miriam Goldman, is played to perfection by the hysterical and enormously talented Ginger Dalton, who was for me the highlight of the show. To say she is dramatic would be an understatement and a disservice to the beautifully accurate portrayal of an overly concerned Jewish mother. Who knew a person could sigh with such fervor? Dalton offers a magnificent performance and is complimented perfectly by her equally talented partner Bob Kaplan who portrays her husband Abe, a Tevye-like patriarch stuck in the wrong century but nonetheless endearing.
Last, but certainly not least, is Sarah’s brother Joel, a divorced psychiatrist played by Scott Joseph Butler whose dry humor blends perfectly with this already well-rounded show. Butler’s subtle comedy is so effective and peaks in the second act during one particularly hysterical tirade.
“Beau Jest” succeeds beautifully as it establishes itself as a living sitcom, complete with a live studio audience, some great inside jokes, and a cast you can’t help but fall in love with. Each knock on the door welcomes a new whirlwind of comedy, drama and beautifully scripted madness; the perfect way to spend an evening with someone you love.
Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Beau Jest” through May 7. Tickets range from $15 to $30. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.