Kind hearts behind laughs in ‘Beau Jest’
Oil Lamp Theater’s upcoming production of “Beau Jest” features, (from left), Rick March, Laura Coleman, Andrea Rappaport, Shaun Baer and Judi Schindler.
Oil Lamp Theater, 1723 Glenview Road, Glenview
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, March 8-April 7
Tickets $30; box office open Tuesday-Friday, 12-5 p.m.
(847) 834-0738 or oillamptheater.org
When it comes to making audiences laugh, James Sherman’s “Beau Jest” is a known quantity.
The Chicago-based playwright’s hit comedy has tickled funny bones since its 1989 Victory Gardens Theater debut, followed by a successful two and one-half year Off-Broadway run and countless other regional productions.
Now Oil Lamp Theater in Glenview will take a turn with the show, starting March 8.
“I like the play a lot,” said director Ron Ben-Joseph, who expects that local audiences will share his enthusiasm. “It offers a good balance of sweetness, purity and kindhearted humor.”
The plot finds Sarah, a kindergarten teacher in her late 20s, grappling with the direction her life will take. Her Jewish parents are hellbent on having her settle down with a suitable Jewish boy. The problem is Sarah’s boyfriend, whom her folks have never met, is a WASP executive — not the Jewish doctor she tells them she is dating.
And when Sarah arranges a dinner party for her mother and father to get to know her beau, the escort she hires to impersonate the fictitious “Dr. Steinberg” turns out to be a budding actor whose Jewish “background” is limited to an appearance in “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“‘Beau Jest’ is kind of a coming-of-age story where the main character goes from doing everything to please her parents (at least on the surface) to figuring out what it is she really wants and articulating that, knowing full well there will be consequences,” Ben-Joseph said.
He added that while the play involves a Jewish family, it speaks of families and traditions and easily resonates with any ethnicity.
Ben-Joseph also has a more personal interest in the play’s concept.
“In the last few years,” he explained, “I started a company with my wife Kerry called Authentic Road Productions. We run workshops and training sessions for students of all ages from 16 to well into their 60s where they try to articulate what they want in life and then create actionable steps to get it.”
The director said that spending the past two years performing standup comedy for his own show and at local clubs helped prepare him to tackle Sherman’s demanding script. Ben-Joseph added that he’s emphasizing subtlety and timing in his production to highlight the honesty that underpins the play.
Ben-Joseph’s cast has proven a quick study and bonded immediately to create the family dynamic required in “Beau Jest.” Actors include Andrea Rappaport as Sarah; Josh Greiveldinger as her boyfriend; Schaun Nathan Baer as Bob, the pretend doctor; Rick March and Judi Schnidler as the parents; and Laura Coleman, as the sister.