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Jest a Second

There's a big difference between a mensch and a nice Jewish boy, and it's about the same difference that exists between a real farce and James Sherman's halfhearted new comedy, "Jest a Second!" This sequel to Sherman's successful "Beau Jest" aspires to farce with its mistaken identities, door-slamming and men in drag, yet it falls far short of its obvious inspirations, "Tootsie" and "Mrs. Doubtfire."Where "Beau Jest" followed a young Jewish woman's comic endeavors to convince her parents that an actor she'd hired was in fact her fiance, the sequel's plot concerns the efforts by Joel (Michael Perreca), a divorced (and gay) father of two, to convince his parents he's straight. Joel convinces brother-in-law Bob (Paul Urcioli), an actor who once appeared in "La Cage aux Folles," to don drag and pretend to be his girlfriend. Sherman only hints at the farcical possibilities, such as when Joel's father flirts with his son's new "girlfriend." If this were a French farce rather than a Jewish one, a more extended and potentially hilarious pursuit by the older man might take place. But the father here is more interested in getting his hands on dinner.

Linnea Todd (Sarah), Paul Urcioli (Bob), Michael Perreca (Joel), Roslyn Alexander (Miriam), Stan Lachow (Abe), Jordan Leeds (Dr. Rosen).

A similarly lame choice is made in the parents’ eventual reaction to their son’s sexuality, the only surprise being that the stereotypical Jewish mother suddenly shows a streak of tolerance completely at odds with everything else presented about her in the play.

Director Dennis Zacek and a good cast make the most of the limited opportunities available to them, and Bruce Goodrich has created an attractive setting and costumes. Deborah Constantine contributed the effective lighting design.

Jest a Second

Opened June 15, 1997, at Playhouse 91. Reviewed June 14; 299 seats; $35 top

Production: NEW YORK A Jewish Repertory Theater presentation in association with the 92nd Street Y of a play in two acts by James Sherman. Directed by Dennis Zacek

Creative: Set and costumes, Bruce Goodrich; lighting, Deborah Constantine; production stage manager, Ruth E. Kramer. JRT artistic director, Ron Avni.. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Linnea Todd (Sarah), Paul Urcioli (Bob), Michael Perreca (Joel), Roslyn Alexander (Miriam), Stan Lachow (Abe), Jordan Leeds (Dr. Rosen).

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