When you go to see Beau Jest at The Ark Theatre, don’t expect a melodrama about the French Foreign Legion. That would be Beau Geste, and it has nothing to do with this comedy.
“It’s a charming little play,” says director Skye Whitcomb. “It’s primarily about family. A young woman who is Jewish is dating a man who is not Jewish.”
Knowing that news won’t sit well with her parents (such a tsimmes they would make!), Sarah Goldman tells her family that she is dating a Jewish man. Since such a man doesn’t really exist, she decides to invent the perfect Jewish boyfriend. “She hires an out-of-work actor to play the part,” Whitcomb says.
But can tsures be avoided? Of course not! “When he arrives, she discovers he’s not Jewish -- although he has been in Fiddler on the Roof,” Whitcomb says.
The play was written by James Sherman, who began his professional career as an actor and writer with the famed Chicago acting troupe, The Second City. The play ran for a year in Chicago, and then was an Off-Broadway hit for two and a half years.
Sherman also has written Magic Time, The God of Isaac, Mr. 80%, The Escape Artist, This Old Man Came Rolling Home, Romance in D, Door to Door, The Old Man’s Friend, Affluenza! and a sequel to Beau Jest called Jest a Second!
The local production actually debuted at Temple Mickve Israel. “During the summer, Rabbi Belzer approached (Savannah Actor’s Theatre Director) Sasha Travis and asked if she would produce a play for the temple,” Whitcomb says.
“After looking at everything, we chose this one,” he says. “Then we asked the rabbi’s approval.”
You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the play, but being Jewish might make it a little bit more funny.
“Not being Jewish, there were a lot of jokes I didn’t get,” Whitcomb admits.
Apparently the audience at Mickve Israel laughed and laughed. So did the actors.
“Three of our six actors are Jewish,” Whitcomb says. “During rehearsals as we were doing a read-through, they would be laughing their heads off.”
Indeed, the production was so well-received at Mickve Israel, that the Savannah Actor’s Theatre decided to do a reprise production Sept. 28, 29 and 30. “Now we’re moving it back to our home,” Whitcomb says.
The production came together in a remarkably short time. “We actually didn’t have one of our cast members until Sept. 10,” Whitcomb says. “We had a bit of a problem getting the cast together. Our audition notices didn’t get to enough people. We didn’t have enough people to cast it. We were literally calling in favors.”
The lead role of Sarah is played by Beck Sarfati. “She’s a SCAD student and was away visiting family in Connecticut,” Whitcomb says.
“I mailed the script to her,” he says. “She got back on the 8th and already had the script memorized.”
Others in the cast are Devon Garbus as Bob, the actor Sarah hires; Michael Brown as Chris, Sarah’s goyim boyfriend; Derek Randall as Joel, Sarah’s brother; and as her parents, Jamie Keena as Abe and Melinda Stein as Miriam.
Once they got together, the cast bonded like family. “The cast has become incredibly close,” Whitcomb says. “They have a great interaction and have made an amazing connection, considering the short amount of time we’ve had.”
That may explain why Whitcomb and his actors are enjoying themselves so much. “We were flying by the seat of our pants, but it came together,” he says.
The comedy Beau Jest will be performed Sept. 28, 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. at The Ark Theatre, 703D Louisville Rd. Admission is free, although donations will be accepted. For information, call Savannah Actor’s Theatre at 232-6080 or e-mail
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