The performance runs approximately 2 hours including an intermission.
James Sherman’s warmhearted comedy Beau Jest tells the story of Sarah Goldman, who doesn’t think her traditional Jewish parents will respond favorably to her boyfriend, a gentile guy named Chris Cringle. So what’s a nice girl to do but create a fictional Jewish doctor as her imaginary beau and hire a male escort to play him in front of the family? The problem is, her charade is a little too successful and Sarah starts falling for the fake! This sweet romantic comedy was an Off-Broadway success and also spawned a 2008 movie version starring Lainie Kazan.
Sarah Goldman (Madeline Baird) is a nice Jewish girl who teaches Kindergarten and lives in Chicago. Sarah loves and respects her parents, and tries very hard to live up to their expectations — but Sarah has a problem. Her dad, Abe (Ken Rubenstein) and her mom, Miriam (Julie Mitre) want “what’s best for their daughter” which, Sarah knows, means that they’d like her to meet, marry and settle down with a nice Jewish boy. But Sarah has fallen in love with Chris (Mathias Blake), a charming young man who works at Leo Burnett as an account supervisor. She even hopes to marry him. But Chris is not Jewish. Just how “not-Jewish” is he? Well, his full name is Chris Kringle!
Sarah is anxious – perhaps even mildly neurotic — and will do almost anything to avoid confrontation and conflict. She really doesn’t want to disappoint her family. But she also wants to live her own life and follow her heart. What to do? She decides that her best strategy would be to keep her “goyische” boyfriend a secret and satisfy her parent’s curiosity by hiring an actor to pretend to be her Jewish boyfriend.
Brilliant! What could go wrong? And since she’s making things up, why not take it a little further? How about making him a boyfriend who is not just Jewish, but also well educated, good-looking… and a doctor? A surgeon, in fact! Perfect!
Sarah contacts an escort agency and arranges for the perfect date. She makes a point of asking for someone who’s Jewish. On the night of a big family dinner party, the agency sends over Bob Schroeder (Zachary Finch), an aspiring young actor. When Sarah explains the assignment to Bob, he thinks it’s a bit strange (he’s more accustomed to escorting older ladies to the opera) but he agrees to go along with the masquerade. Then Sarah learns, to her horror, that Bob is also not Jewish. (“But I specifically asked for someone Jewish!” she says. Bob replies, “I guess they thought Schroeder was a Jewish name… Honest mistake!”)
It’s too late for Sarah to find a replacement pretend boyfriend, so Bob offers to do his best. After all, he’s taken improv classes at Second City and once acted in a production of Fiddler on the Roof at the Candlelight Playhouse. (He tells Sarah that even Herschel Bernardi thought he was Jewish.) And sure enough, his first get-together with the Goldmans is a great success. Bob is a hit with the family. His combination of wit, charm and a little chutzpah, quickly wins over Abe and Miriam, and even Sarah’s older brother Joel (Alex Ireys), a divorced therapist. The family is so delighted by Sarah’s new boyfriend that he’s invited back for an even bigger event — a Passover Seder dinner!
Things become hilariously complicated as this young couple inextricably tangle themselves up with their own deception… and with each other! Of course, this shaky house of cards can’t last for long, and the truth soon tumbles out for all to see with warmhearted playfulness and charm.
James Sherman’s Beau Jest delights audiences with insights into the details and rituals of Jewish life while also taking on a problem that is universal to all times and to every culture: How can you make your family happy while still being true to yourself and living the life you want to live? To find out just how Sarah, her family, and her friends work this all out, come join the fun at the Oil Lamp Theater in Glenview!
Directed by Elizabeth Mazur Levin
Stage Manager Savannah Clements