Glendale Centre Theatre is the oldest continuing “centre staged” theatre in America. For 64 years they have been giving their audiences ”quality family entertainment that is uplifting and inspirational.” Under the leadership of current producers Brenda and Tim Dietlein they are giving their audience the kind of shows it desires to see and that have kept this theatre running for so many years. The season opened with a very successful 1776. The stage isn’t large, because it is in the round; there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
The theatre’s current offering is the very slight but warm-and-fuzzy Beau Jest by James Sherman. The show ran for three years off Broadway and was eventually made into a movie. This is not a thinking man’s comedy but rather a lighthearted romp into marriage, dating, parent vs. child relationships, and confused identities, a plot as old as the Greeks with as many clichés, but for the most part it works very well.
The story involves a young schoolteacher (Allison Robertson) from Chicago who is desperate to please her parent’s wishes that she marry a Jew. Her boyfriend at the moment, Chris Cringle (Shawn Cahill) – Can you believe, Chris Cringle? Can you get more W.A.S.P. than that? – is a Gentile so she hires an actor (Kelly Flynn) to meet her parents as a successful doctor. Unbeknownst to him he has invited her parents (Mario Digregorio and Elaine Rose) as well as her brother (Danny Michaels) to a Sabbath dinner. Flynn’s character, Bob Schroeder, must improvise his tail off being in a strange culture but his having appeared in Fiddler on the Roof helps. The second act is another dinner but this time it is Passover. Of course, the girl falls for the actor and the play resolves itself with all the secrets being revealed. I was not fond of the manipulative nature of the daughter though the actress and, in fact all the actors, gave it their all. I also felt left out, not being Jewish; as well as a bit squeamish at a Gentile being the butt of the joke. The audience had a grand time, however. Beau Jest plays at Glendale Centre Theatre until Sept 24.