“Beau Jest” – Hale Centre Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ January 18, 2016


Hale Centre Theatre
Gilbert, AZ

“Beau Jest” is a frail comedy that pokes fun at the foibles of Jewish traditions.  Written by James Sherman in 1991, it’s not a profound play with penetrating characters, but it is amusing if the production has solid acting and a crisp pace, audiences are guaranteed to guffaw at the modest but amusing jokes and stereotypical Jewish character slams.  Gilbert’s Hale Centre Theatre production fits the necessary requirements perfectly.

Like “The Book of Mormon,” it slams and jabs at faith rules and issues without malice.  The production handles the Jewish customs with accurate parodies because they used a trio of experts to assist the director and cast to make the depiction of Jewish religious practices and Hebrew language pronunciations with a professional sheen.

The predictable plot is set in the attractive Chicago apartment of Sarah Goldman, a single kindergarten teacher.  She invites her mother and father, Miriam and Abe, over for dinner with her psychologist brother Joel to meet her new boyfriend.  Miriam and Abe didn’t approve of Sarah’s boyfriend, Chris Cringle, because he wasn’t Jewish.

Sarah hires actor Bob Schroeder from an escort service to portray a boyfriend she hopes her parents accept.  Chris is distressed by Sarah’s game and when Bob turns out to be superb in his role, it’s no surprise how “Beau Jest” ends.

“Beau Jest” has many similarities to lightweight television comedies and the cardboard characters lack depth and complexity but the winning production makes the play a pleasant diversion.

Jere Van Patten’s breezy staging keeps the play moving at breakneck speed, a good way to hide the play’s frailties.  Allyson Van Patten is a doting, intrusive, and obnoxious Jewish mother, and Wayne Peck is a worrisome father who wants what’s best for Sarah if she’d just talk to him.  Laura Anne Kenney is a sleekly sophisticated but amazingly fearful daughter who believes tricks are better than honesty when dealing with her parents.  Aaron Blanco is quick and clever picking up clues as boyfriend substitute Bob.  It’s easy to see why Sarah can easily discard Jeff Deglow’s whiny Chris and Raymond Barcelo starts as the initially wallflower brother Joel, only to spark when he unravels Sarah’s ruse.

It may not be profound but the Hale Centre Theatre’s “Beau Jest” is a diverting comedy with genuine laughs because of an artful production by one of the Valley’s finest community theaters.  “Beau Jest” continues through February 13.  For tickets, call the Hale Centre Theatre box office at 480-497-1181 or order online at www.haletheatrearizona.com.

Grade: B