"BEAU JEST," Caine Lyric Theatre, Logan, through Aug. 2 (435-797-8022 or usu.edu/lyric), running time: 2 hours (one intermission)

LOGAN — If "Beau Jest," the second summer offering of the Old Lyric Repertory Company, were to be pigeonholed into a genre, it would comfortably fit as a romantic comedy.

Turns out it is more romance than comedy.

Oh, there are laughs, for certain. But the bang-bang speed and loud guffaws of many farces that are the stock of summer theater are missing. "Beau Jest" instead provides quiet snickers, excellent characterizations and lots of kisses.

Set in Chicago in the early 1980s, "Beau Jest" introduces the audience to Sarah Goldman (Sasha Kaye), who is getting increasing pressure from her mother to marry a nice Jewish boy. In order to buy some time, Sarah hires an actor (Bob Schroeder, played by Joe Tisa) to portray Dr. David Steinberg, a doctor Sarah conjured up to impress her family.

Turns out Sarah is in love with Chris (Luke Bybee), a nice enough fellow, but not Jewish.

Well, as luck — and romantic comedies — would have it, Dr. Steinberg has to be pretty slick on his feet to tap-dance around questions about his medical practice and how the couple met. All while he's falling in love with a new culture and a family he just met.

Turns out Schroeder is also not Jewish, though everyone at the escort agency thought he was. But he has been in "Fiddler on the Roof," so he hits his new assignment with vigor.

Tisa, a newcomer to the company, hits both Bob and Dr. Steinberg right on the head. He stumbles and sweats and lies and develops a soft heart just as he should. His portrayal is honest and appreciated.

Opening night, he even worked with a prop that wouldn't cooperate and a skull cap that had a mind of its own, and he did it with style.

Kaye is pleasant as Sarah, though her voice doesn't project as well as the voices of other leads and sometimes she gets lost in scenes with lots of voices.

Steven Fehr was particularly likable as Joel, Sarah's divorced brother — a therapist who now lives with his parents. Fehr becomes more important as the play progresses.

Keri Larsen, a star at Old Style Repertory for several seasons, is just right as Miriam, the pushy mother. It would have been easy to overdo the whining, loud, Jewish mother, but Larsen's accent and characterization are at the level where they should be.

Pacing for the production is right on the edge of being troublesome. Often pauses are stretched out to allow for tension or for characters to hem and haw while they try to share their feelings — "Beau Jest" being very much an examination of relationships. But that fine line was crossed a couple of times, and the timing could be picked up by just a beat or two to keep audience interest at a maximum.

By the time Sarah has to come clean, the audience feels like part of the family, which was the entire design behind "Beau Jest."

"Beau Jest" runs in repertory with "The Dresser," "Chaps," and "Deathtrap" until Aug. 2.


E-mail: [email protected]