AURORA | There’s something about the tried and true tropes of sitcoms, especially those from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, that provide a certain comfort for the viewer. Ridiculous plotlines such as trying to juggle two dates at the prom at the same time are resolved by a dues ex machina-type of intervention that not only provides closure on the story, but also some life lesson. They might not challenge an audience much, but it’s still fun and worth the time.
“Beau Jest,” Cherry Creek Theatre’s current production, owes more to shows like “Three’s Company” than it does to Chekhov’s “Three Sisters.” The show tells the story of Sarah, who’s trying to please her Jewish parents in 1980s Chicago by inventing a fake Jewish doctor to be her beau instead of Chris, her gentile ad executive boyfriend. To pull off the charade, she hires Bob, an escort with a Jewish sounding name to be her stand in for a dinner with her family.
It turns out Bob-the-escort’s only connection to the Israelites is his acting in a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Lots of insanity ensues as Sarah and Bob try to pull a fast on over her folks over a series of dinners. And of course, as one might expect in a show like this, the pair begin to fall in love. Play the part long enough and the part starts to play you.
While the plot twists are telegraphed and the resolution never in doubt, this show isn’t about finding new ground for an audience to be taken through. Instead it’s about setting up a scenario to produce as many laughs as possible. And for the most part, that’s exactly what Cherry Creek Theatre’s production does with this show.
Austin Lazek, as Bob, plays the part of the stand-in boyfriend with just the right mix of charm and desperation, an actor in the midst of an improv show that he didn’t know he’d be taking part in. Rachel Turner plays Sarah with the neurotic dial turned up to 11, flying across the stage at a breakneck speed only slowing down enough to bite her tongue during her mother’s overbearing instructions.
Josh Levy as the dad, Sharon Kay White as the mom and Damon Guerrasio as the brother round out Rachel’s family with Kyle Dean Steffen handing the part of the little seen real boyfriend Chris. The show’s strength is in the comedic timing the entire cast has with one another and make the otherwise predictable script quite enjoyable.
Cherry Creek Theatre uses a black box theater at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center for its production and as with any black box show, there are some challenges inherent in the space. It’s almost unavoidable in a venue that tries to pack in as many seats as possible that at some point, part of the audience is going to be staring at the back of an actor for a period of time. “Beau Jest” really tries its darndest to make the action on stage seem natural. There are only a few time when it’s very apparent that the actors are trying to make sure they hit their marks for the right amount of face time with the audience.
The play is short and sweet and has been broken up into three acts, one for each dinner that takes place in the story. While the two breaks might be necessary for some of the audience at Cherry Creek Theatre it hurts the overall flow of the show. The tension over the ruse being pulled by Rachel and her stand in boyfriend is where so much of the humor comes from in the show. When we get 15 minutes to breath before the next scene starts, it breaks that tension and it takes a few minutes into the next act for it to be built up again. This show would be better served just pushing through until the bitter end. Or, in this case, the happy end. Because of course there’s going to be a happy ending. Have you ever seen an episode of “Three’s Company” that ended on a down note?
at Cherry Creek Theatre
Mizel Arts and Culture Center 350 S. Dahlia St., Denver
Now through Dec. 10. Thur. and Sat. at 7 p.m.; Sun at 2 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 3 and 10 at 7 p.m.
No performances Nov. 23-26
Admission $35 Adult, $30 Student/Senior
Call 303-800-6578 or visit www.cherrycreektheatre.org for tickets.