“BEAU JEST,” through Sept. 20, Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 W. 400 North, Orem (801-226-8600 or haletheater.org), running time: 2 hours (one intermission)
OREM — And you thought Utah’s dating scene was confusing.
“Beau Jest,” Hale Center Theater Orem’s newest play, is a romantic comedy filled with fibs, ad-libs and a handful of DTRs revolving around a single, Jewish schoolteacher in Chicago.
Welcome to Sarah Goldman’s world, in which her parents are intent on her settling down with a Jewish boy. But Mr. and Mrs. Goldman aren’t too pleased to find out their daughter is dating a gentile, especially one whose name is about as non-Jewish as you can get: Chris Cringle.
In an effort to end the steady stream of setups, Sarah tells her parents that she broke up with Chris and started dating a Jewish man — an extremely busy and important surgeon, no less.
When the familial pressure for her to introduce them to her imaginary boyfriend escalates, Sarah turns to the Heaven Sent Escort Agency instead of coming clean about her continuing relationship with Chris.
The agency sends over Bob Schroeder. Although his name sounds Jewish, he isn’t — much to Sarah’s panic.
And that’s where the real fun begins.
The six-person cast delivers a constant stream of laughs and is led by Jenny Latimer as the high-strung Sarah. Her fretting and anxiousness are palpable, as are her care for her family members and her desire not to disappoint — even if that means lying.
Blake Barlow steps into the persona of Bob Schroeder/David Steinberg, the fabricated Jewish surgeon. Bob’s saving grace is that he's an actor and draws upon previous roles in “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Cabaret” to pull off his impromptu performances for Sarah’s family. As Bob and Sarah spend more time together, their feelings and lies get more complex.
Karen Baird plays the lovable, cheek-pinching Miriam Goldman, whose grandmaternal clock is ticking. She is complemented by her polyester pantsuit and also by Larson Holyoak, who plays Sarah’s father, Abe, a hardworking dry cleaner. The couple’s bickering and conversations ring hilariously true to life.
Shawn Lynn plays Sarah’s brother, Joel, a therapist who also supplies a lot of funny lines. His exchanges with Sarah showcase the essence of sibling teasing and brutal honesty. Chris Cringle, the preppy and doting but doomed boyfriend, rounds out the talented cast.
“Beau Jest” audiences will enjoy not only the quips and quarrels but also the portrayal of Jewish culture, especially the Seder tradition, which Bob is miraculously able to fake his way through.
The lighthearted production is worthwhile because it explores the complexities and idiosyncrasies of relationships — those we are stuck with and those we choose to be stuck with — and the measures taken to appease the people we care about most.
Sensitivity rating: Two swear words and some alcohol consumption.
Emily Edmonds is an online communications instructor for BYU-Idaho. She is the former editor of BYU's Marriott Alumni Magazine and is a contributor to Family Circle magazine. She has bachelor's in journalism and a master's in communications from BYU.