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The 2nd Avenue South Theater Company will present Beau Jest, a highly successful Off-Broadway comedy written by Chicago playwright James Sherman (Door to Door) and staged by Triangle actor/director Al Singer, June 4-13 in the North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre in Greystone Village Shopping Center in North Raleigh. The Raleigh-Cary Jewish Federation will co-sponsor this clever romantic comedy, which chronicles a Jewish woman's struggle to establish a separate identity from her tradition-bound and often-overbearing parents.
Beau Jest premiered at the Victory Gardens theater in Chicago in 1989, and ran for two and a half years Off Broadway in the early 1990s, according to director Al Singer.
Singer says, "James Sherman is known in Chicago theater circles as the Neil Simon of Lincoln Avenue, having made his mark in the mid-Eighties at the popular Second City.... My brother, a New York actor, saw the play when it appeared there and has recommended that 2nd Avenue put it on in Raleigh. He says it was a crowd pleaser for both Jewish and generic audiences."
Al Singer says, "What I like best about the play is how well Sherman has crafted an actor's play, no doubt a reflection of his early days at Second City. Often in the middle of rehearsals, I feel envious of the actors who are having fun playing Sherman's characters.
"I wanted to direct the play," Singer admits, "because the story is simple, with a catchy plot, and performing it depends on honest, connected work by the ensemble. It pokes fun at a common Jewish (and at most immigrant cultures as well) family conflict without disrespecting either traditional or modern viewpoints."
He adds, "At the core of the story is a young woman searching for her identity amidst the onslaught of parental expectations. I guess it takes me back to when I first married outside my faith. I remember my dear grandmother Goldie giving me the silent treatment because I married a 'shiksa' (a non-Jewish woman). I withdrew from the family for a decade, but it didn't stop me from marrying another 'shiksa' the second time around."
Singer says, "Beau Jest T takes place in Chicago around 1990, and opens with a running start. A 30ish Jewish woman named Sarah (Rebecca Blum) is dating a non-Jewish man named Chris Kringle (David Shouse), who has been rejected by her parents, Abe and Miriam (David Ring and Bunny Safron). Wanting desperately to please her pushy mother and her loving immigrant father, Sarah hires an out-of-work actor from an escort service (David McClutchey) to meet them. When the folks and Sarah's therapist brother Joel (Seth Blum) show up for Sabbath and Passover dinners, the fun unravels; and Sarah tries to sort out who she is and who she wants to love."
As a director, Al Singer says, "The artistic challenge, like in all comedies, is to present real characters and let the words, the relationships, and the writer's touch bring out a funny story with a heart.
"There is also the challenge of working within the confines of someone else's theater, but I try to just plod along and not let this become an obstacle. [It is] one reason to keep things simple," Singer says.
The show's creative team includes North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre set and light designer Bobby Cloutier and David Klionsky, Pat Singer, and Lynn Savitz, who are assisting the director.
Al Singer says the show will unfold on a "basic black-box set"; and he notes that "the actors are costuming themselves, except David Ring, whose wardrobe consists of patched up khakis and t-shirts, so he will appear as the nattily dressed Abe thanks to the kindness of Cate Foltin and Vicki Olson at [Raleigh Little Theatre]."
2nd Avenue South Theater Company presents Beau Jest Friday-Saturday, June 4-5 and 11-12, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 6, at 3 p.m. in the North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre in Greystone Village Shopping Center, at the corner of Lead Mine and Sawmill roads, Raleigh, North Carolina. $15 ($10 students, seniors, and groups). 919/233-0752. North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre: http://www.nract.org/.