By James Sherman
Artisan Center Theater
Director – Cameron Byerly
Executive Producer/Artistic Director – Dee Ann Blair
Associate Producer/Marketing Director – Natalie Burkhart
Associate Artistic Director/Education Director – Cody Walker
Technical Director – Steve Skidmore
Set Design and Construction – Eric Luckie
Light/Sound Design – Daniel Orges
Costume Design – Faith Cheesman
Property Design – Heather O’Donnell
Stage Manager – Holli Price
Sarah Goldman: Kaitlin McGehee
Chris: Rakesh Podupati
Bob: Logan Rodgers
Joel: David Carroll
Miriam: Tonya Laree
Abe: Geoff Leonard-Robinson
Reviewed Performance: 9/7/2018
Reviewed by Jeri Tellez, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Beau Jest is a comedy about a young Jewish woman and her Beau. Although she doesn’t meet him in one of the usual ways, he turns out to be just what the doctor ordered. The plot, complete with stereotypical Jewish parents, not-so-Jewish boyfriend, and therapist brother, is full of twists and turns. It was obvious that director, Cameron Byerly, had done his homework regarding the Jewish pronunciation and rituals, which seemed to be authentic.
The scene changes were a bit odd, being a combination of natural scene progression and instant changes, both done under low lighting. Some of the prop changes might not have felt as strange if a backstage crew member had done them, or had the lights been dimmed more.
The play was set in the late 1980s, but could have been set at any time before the internet age. Eric Luckie’s set was full of detail, including a corded phone, a large Persian rug, and a prayer shawl on the table. The walls and trim were lovely.
Faith Cheesman’s costumes and props by Heather O’Donnell were spot on, including the yarmulkes, the 80s dresses, the plentiful food, and the dishes and candelabra. Other than the aforementioned scene change lighting, I thought Daniel Orges’ light and sound designs were perfectly inconspicuous. The set was well illuminated with no shadows. Sound design was flawless, providing just the right doorbells, telephone rings, etc.
As Sarah, the young single Jewish woman, Kaitlin McGehee played a delightfully neurotic, dutiful daughter trying to find her way in life with a minimum of interference from her overbearing mother. Her lines were well delivered and clear, and her expressions accurately portrayed the varying emotions of a young lady in a personal growth spurt. She was flustered when necessary and in charge when the scene demanded.
Logan Rodgers did a wonderful job portraying the uniquely gifted and experienced Bob. There were a few times his delivery was a bit over the top, which should have been noticed by the other characters, but I believe that was necessary to communicate the intent of the scene to the audience, perhaps a plot hole that wasn’t addressed by Byerly.
Tonya Laree, as Miriam, was a textbook meddling Jewish mother, with an obvious “I just want what’s best for you” attitude. She wasn’t afraid to bicker with her husband or children, or to show her displeasure when Sarah had the chutzpah to think for herself or when Sarah’s brother followed his visitation orders.
Abe Goldman, depicted by Geoff Leonard-Robinson, was the delightful figurehead of a woman-dominated family. He knew when to give up the fight, but had no problem standing up for what he believed when it really mattered. A bit confused at times, he provided the perfect comic foil to Laree’s “straight man”.
David Carroll, as brother Joel, did a fine job as the sidekick/protector. His mannerisms as a therapist and Jewish man were just right. His delivery and demeanor was appropriate, whether suspicious, deadpan, or concerned.
Chris, played by Rakesh Podupati, was a sympathetic character that I couldn’t help but feel sorry for. His options were taken away for him, in spite of his best efforts to remain in control of his corner of the world. Podupati has great comedic timing, and his lines were clear and controlled.
A fun, family friendly show, Beau Jest is perfect for an evening out with the kids. I recommend adding this to your weekend plans.
Beau Jest runs through September 22 at the Artisan Center Theater.
For tickets and information go to ArtisanCT.com or call 817-284-1200.