Beau Jest, written by James Sherman and playing at Cumberland Theatre, is the tale of one woman’s absurd attempt to please her overbearing, but well-meaning, family – a story to which many women can relate. Sarah, a pretty teacher, is dating a man her Jewish parents won’t approve of: handsome, kind – and a gentile. In a desperate attempt to avoid her father’s disappointment and her mother’s matchmaking, Sarah hires an out of work actor to play the role of the perfect boyfriend.
The three act romantic comedy explores Sarah’s complicated relationship with her parents and brother, as well as her alternating complicated and budding relationships with the various men in her life.
Those looking for a sweet, light-hearted way to celebrate Valentine’s Day should take in a performance of ‘Beau Jest’ at Cumberland Theatre.
Olivia Ercolano, as the attractive and extremely stressed Sarah, skillfully bounces between near breakdowns and tender moments with Bill Dennison, who plays Bob, the out of work actor. Dennison charms with his comedic timing, excellent body language, and honest expressions. Ercolano balances his playful spirit with her emotional scenes, highlighting the very real difficulty of trying to please one’s parents. Together, they make a cute – yet unconventional – and highly relatable couple.
Angela Merrithew and Chris McCabe play Sarah’s parents, who spend much of the time looking for parking and bickering over inconsequential details. Merrithew (Miriam), expertly dressed by costumer Wendy Snow, sweetly handles her role with enough sincerity that the audience is exasperated by her fears of the microwave, yet secretly wishes she’d nag them over the state of the kugel. McCabe (Abe) keeps the audience laughing as he unearths just about every Jewish stereotype to be had, but still manages to keep his role a multi-dimensional character. He shows his skill when the plot takes a serious turn in the last act. Rounding out the cast, Timothy M. Day plays Joel, Sarah’s astute older brother and Randy Means does a solid job as the frustrated, yet loving Chris: Sarah’s for real – for now – boyfriend.
Directed and designed by Gary Goodson, the Cumberland Theatre is well known for its highly artistic sets and Beau Jest does not disappoint. Taking place exclusively in Sarah’s apartment, the set is stylish and modern. This was complemented by soft, muted lighting orchestrated by Joe Thompson that set the mood for romance.
Those looking for a sweet, light-hearted way to celebrate Valentine’s Day should take in a performance of Beau Jest at Cumberland Theatre. Patrons are encouraged to visit the Bev Walker Art Gallery, which is currently featuring the photographs of Cris Herring.
Running Time: one hour and fifty minutes, with two ten minute intermissions.
Beau Jest at Cumberland Theatre runs through February 24, 2013 at 101 North Johnson Street, Cumberland, MD 21502. For tickets call 301-759-4990 or click here.