Review: OST stages 'Beau Jest,' a comedy with heart
OKOBOJI, Iowa -- Okoboji Summer Theatre (OST) scores a big hit this week: "Beau Jest" by James Sherman, a comedy with heart, humor and well-developed characterizations, which enjoyed a successful Off-Broadway run for more than two years. The OST cast of six is almost perfect in every way, and the action moves along smoothly to a satisfying climax in under two hours. The people of this play seem as real as our families and friends although situations of our own may be quite different.
Sarah, a lovely young kindergarten teacher, has her own apartment in Chicago, attractively designed at OST by Dylan Bean, which is the scene of several family dinner parties. Her parents, who feel sure that Sarah will never be happy until she finds a Jewish husband, come to dinner prepared to meet the new beau, whom they've been told is a Jewish doctor. In order to appease her parents, Sarah has hired an actor from an escort service to pose as Dr. David Steinberg.
Sarah's mother is ecstatic over the good looking, amiable doctor, a surgeon, while her father, in his grumpy, critical way, approves of him as well. Only Sarah's brother remains skeptical, especially after he asks David what kind of surgery he does and David tells him: "Whatever comes up. Heart, brains."
David, who is really Bob Shroeder, a gentile, convinces the parents with his impersonation, aided by his past performance on stage in "Fiddler On The Roof." "Even Tevye thought I was Jewish," he assures Sarah.
During the Seder dinner, David gives the blessing with lines he's memorized from "Fiddler," but his mouth shows his distaste at the cheap wine and he chokes over the hot horseradish dip served with unleavened bread.
Meanwhile, Sarah's other boyfriend, Chris, keeps returning to the apartment to check on David. Chris isn't Jewish either, though both suitors profess they are willing to convert to Sarah's faith.
Danielle Wineman as the adorable Sarah shows just the right combination of charm and sparkle, tempered with touching concern for her parents. Breanne Pickering is consistently funny without over-exaggeration in her role of the old-fashioned stereotypical Jewish mother. Both of these talented women are Stephens College students. Veteran actor Michael Rapport stays right on target as the hard-to-please, yet loving-in-his-own way, father,
Sarah's two beaus each give excellent characterizations: Justin Kirk as Chris and Dru Silva, David/ Bob, a much more major role. Our seats in row B provided us with a down-front opportunity to watch the changing facial expressions of both men. Dru Silva brings many wonderful laughs as he communicates confusion, dismay and joy.
With "Beau Jest," popular director Lamby Hedge presents to Okoboji audiences the gift of a delightful 4th-of-July-week production. Don't miss this one. It ends after the 6 p.m. performance Sunday.