AISLE SAY Florida

 

JEWTOPIA

by Bryon Fogel and Sam Wolfson
Directed by Jay Berkow
Starring Brandon Beilis and Patrick Noonan
Florida Studio Theatre/Keating Mainstage
1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941)366-9000
Jan. 30-March 22, 2008

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

 

A subtitle might have been “How to Be a Jew.” That’s what Chris O’Connell (frantically enthusiastic Patrick Noonan) has to learn, because he wants  a Jewish wife so he won’t ever have to make any more decisions. His more laid-back pal Adam (wiry, cute, musically talented Brandon Beilis) likes Gentile girls but hopelessly struggles to pick up Jewish ones. Mother expects it. The guys agree on mutual aid toward entering Jewtopia, land of ideal Jewish women. Nayna Ramey’s Star of David-soaked set, lit like a blue heaven by Marty Vreeland, adapts, if somewhat busily.


Chris gets Adam to sign onto singles website Jdate.com. He submits to being costumed and photographed to illustrate his persona (actually multiple phony personalities, including sportsman and rapper). His only response comes from Fire Tushy (one of several crazy gals Jessica Smolins blasts forward as), clad in red patent leather jacket and leopard capris (among Marcella Beckwith’s flashy costumes). Conversing by laptop, Adam--unable to remain a hip-suited hot rapper--insults her via misspelling. He decides to cool down for a while and help Chris, starting with a visit to temple and ending with one to a hospital where Chris awaits circumcision.
 

In between, the most tasteless moments involve Adam, broke and sex-starved, humping just about anything at a Purim Carnival. Then there’s a status-conscious, salacious Rabbi who remembers Adam dropped his pants at his bar mitzvah and started a club of boys who bared all at ceremonies. Rabbi (sly-seeming Peter Levine) also tells a bad joke--at the expense of priests. He’s almost balanced by over-the-top Marcy rapid-firing an oral exam on Jewishness at Chris. (Bonnie Black alternates Adam’s loud, abrasive Jewish mother with a later role as Chris’ confident but secretive fiance, Arlene.) Three months later, Adam is coaching him to learn Jewish for Dummies. Best comic moments involve hints on how to behave in restaurants: i.e., get moved from the first table offered, send something back, ask for more light. In general, only a Gentile would exhibit perfect health or make a repair using tools.
 

Adam surprises by bringing his would-be bride Rachel (Asian beauty Leanne Cabrera) to an ultra-silly seder, where his father (Jon Kohler) exhibits fitting irrelevance. Ironically, Chris’ advances toward a new family help reconcile him to his unemotional father. After more secular revelations and religious assertions, Jewtopia turns into a musical. Director Jay Berkow seems to have gone along with, as much as propelled, the proceedings.
 

Stacy A. Blackburn is stage manager. Judging from a post-performance discussion (one of many offered during the run), people either love or hate it. (Local critics found it either “unfunny” or a near-great comic send-up.) Time: 1 hr,, 50 mins. w/an intermission.


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