The current 2nd Avenue South Theater Company production of Beau Jest, penned by Chicago playwright James Sherman and staged by Triangle actor/director Al Singer, is An utterly charming romantic comedy. Its 30ish heroine is an independent-minded but nervous Jewish woman who discretely dates a series of non-Jewish men. The other characters are her openly disapproving parents, her sympathetic and supportive psychologist brother, her frustrated current boyfriend whom her parents reject out of hand, and the handsome young actor with the Jewish surname whom she hires to play the ideal boyfriend (from her parents' perspective): a Jewish doctor whose religious beliefs mirror those of her mom and dad.
Up-and-coming actress Rebecca Blum is a real delight as Sarah Goldman, whose carefully laid plans to trick her tradition-minded and often-overbearing parents (and get them off her back for awhile) not only go hilariously awry, but also have some unexpected consequences that turn her world upside down. Blum, who demonstrates a fine flair for comedy here, has a perfect foil in David McClutchey, who is a scream as Bob Schroeder, the surprisingly resourceful and resilient non-Jewish actor with the Jewish surname whom Sarah hires to fool her folks.
Predictably, it is not long before Sarah and Bob develop real feelings for each other, much to the consternation of Chris Kringle (David Shouse), the boyfriend whom Sarah banishes from her apartment every time she entertains her parents. Shouse is good in a thankless role; and Rebecca Blum's real-life husband, Seth Blum, suavely plays her increasingly suspicious brother Joel.
David Ring and Bunny Safron are terrific as Sarah's pushy parents, Abe and Miriam Goldman. The proprietor of a string of dry-cleaning establishments, Abe is a whiner, always complaining about the difficulties of parking in Sarah's neighborhood. But he is also a mensch who brooks no disagreement over religious matters from his more liberal-minded son and daughter.
One of the Triangle's finest character actors, David Ring makes a welcome return to the stage; and Bunny Safron matches him quirk for quirk as Joel and Sarah's domineering mother. It is easy to see why Sarah would go to such extremes to honor this demanding but loving pair.
Smart staging by director Al Singer and assistant to the director David Klionsky heightens the show's hilarity, North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre scenic and lighting designer Bobby Cloutier creates a convincing set to represent Sarah's cozy Chicago apartment, and the colorful contributions of costumer designer and props person Lynn Savitz also help make this zany rendition of Beau Jest, co-sponsored by the Raleigh-Cary Jewish Federation, a must-see comedy.
The 2nd Avenue South Theater Company presents Beau Jest Friday-Saturday, June 11-12, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 13, 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/.