Review: ‘Beau Jest’

Plot follows the angst-ridden attempts of nice Jewish girl Sarah (Laura Patinkin) to hide her gentile boyfriend Chris (Guy Mount) from her parents.

Plot follows the angst-ridden attempts of nice Jewish girl Sarah (Laura Patinkin) to hide her gentile boyfriend Chris (Guy Mount) from her parents.

Unwilling to confront her parents with a lover named Chris Kringle (these are the jokes), Sarah invents the perfect Jewish beau: Dr. David Steinberg.

When parents Miriam (Roslyn Alexander) and Abe (Bernie Landis) insist on meeting this answer-to-their-dreams, Sarah hires out-of-work actor and part-time escort Bob Schroeder (Joe Warren Davis) to portray Dr. Steinberg at a Shabbos dinner attended by Sarah’s parents and her psychologist brother Joel (Rob LaBelle).

Unfortunately, the escort service made a mistake: Bob isn’t Jewish either. From this unlikely premise, events move predictably along.

While it is a pleasant journey, one must simply suspend a sense of disbelief that a non-Jew, non-doctor could keep this charade up through a Shabbos and later a Seder dinner (Act II), while being almost devoured by two very protective parents, and intently scrutinized by brother Joel.

Sherman doesn’t waste much energy on plot or character development, but he has mastered the art of stimulus/response dialogue.

The one-liners and rejoinders zing their way effectively through the work, pausing only momentarily in Act III to allow for mandatory soul-searching, truth-telling and reconciliations.

Patinkin is a wonderfully comic Sarah, her body reacting to each precarious turn of events while managing to exude sensuality.

Davis’s understated Bob is a perfect complement. Landis is particularly funny at the Seder dinner, ripping through the ceremony, creating a shortcut to the feast.

Alexander and Landis certainly do inhabit the souls of Miriam and Abe; LaBelle is effectively focused as the suspicious brother, and Mount has moments of true poignancy as the put-off suitor.

Beau Jest

(Westwood Playhouse, Westwood; 500 seats; $ 32.50 top)

Production

Arthur Cantor and Carol Ostrow present a comedy in three acts by James Sherman; directed by Dennis Zacek.

Creative

Set, lighting and costume designs, Bruce Goodrich. Opened March 6; reviewed March 7; runs indefinitely.

Cast

Sarah ... Laura Patinkin Chris ... Guy Mount Bob ... Joe Warren Davis Joel ... Rob LaBelle Miriam ... Roslyn Alexander Abe ... Bernie Landis In its West Coast premiere, "Beau Jest" is an archaic, formula comedy that retros back to early Neil Simon with a bit of Wendy Wasserstein thrown in. However, James Sherman's quaint three-acter manages to be funny and, thanks to Dennis Zacek's fluid staging and a dead-on cast, occasionally has moments of pure hilarity.

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