Theater Review: “Jewtopia”
“Oy Gevalt!” Adam (Chris Hester) has brought home the shiksa, again. Time, in other words, for mom, Arlene (Liz Herlich), to get a little more liberal with the Manischevitz tonight.
Yet, wait everyone knows Jews aren’t heavy drinkers. Like seriously Arlene, you’re giving us Jews a bad rap. But you see Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson’s “Jewtopia,” HATTheatre’s submission into the Acts of Faith Festival, is all about Jewish stereotypes: Jews move tables at restaurants, Jews don’t hunt or go boating on the boats they own, Jewish women play mahjong (well, that one’s true, ask my mother), and Jewish men certainly don’t like Jewish women. (Is that because they don’t buy retail?)
It’s the last stereotype that sets up the show: Adam is Jewish, but has an aversion to dating Jewish girls. However, his friend Chris O’Connell (Lucas Hall), an Irish Catholic, only wants to marry a Jewish girl so he never has to make another decision in his life. Chris offers to help Adam score Jewish chicks and signs him up for JDate.com, the Jewish dating site.
Adam’s prospects don’t look too good after a few dates with religious Jewish girl, butch (possible lesbian?) Jewish girl, and artsy fartsy, feminist Jewish girl. In the meantime, Chris has fallen for Alison Cohen (a cute Sarah Robins) and plans to convert to Judaism. (Snip snip!) God forbid Adam might marry a Kennedy instead of a Rosenbaum!
But Jewish, schmewish—director Vickie L. Scallion has infused Fogel and Wolfson’s pretty much bupkis script with laugh-out-loud humor, particularly in Act II during the Passover Seder scene.
Yes, there are bothersome stereotypes, particularly those that paint Jewish women in a negative light, and annoying subplots dealing with Chris’ inability to say “I Love You, Dad” to his father and Adam’s scandal at his Bar Mitzvah, but I sense that Fogel and Wolfson have decided to leave the realm of serious Jewish drama to other playwrights.
And amidst a changing scenery of Jewish holidays from Sukkot to Passover under Todd Schall-Vess’ efficient set, a portrait of an austere, gray-bearded Hasidic rebbe glares down on his identity-confused, probably Reform temple affiliated descendents with solemnity and piety, draping the wall unmoved throughout the performance’s 2 ½ hours, as they outrageously deal with contentious, topical Jewish issues like religious intermarriage and cultural assimilation.
Chris Hester adds an anxious but adorable personality to his role as Adam, and Lucas Hall nicely amps up Chris’ enthusiasm for everything Jewish. Michael Dunn stands out humorouly as Rabbi Schlomo, but it’s Nicole Fratkin as Adam’s sassy sister (Jewish girl with an iPod!) and Natasha Liu as Rachel Khan who have the best one-liners of the show in Act II and they do it hilariously.
But like the play’s conclusion, where Jews and Gentiles burst out into song with one another in ecumenical harmony, I was ready to burst out of there. However, one of the lyrics stuck with me, “I’m a Jew and it’s OK.” Despite all the stereotypes, I very much agree.
“Jewtopia” runs through March 18 at HATTheatre. For more information, please visit http://www.hattheatre.org/index.html or to purchase tickets, call (804) 343-6364.
Matthew Miller is the former arts editor and chief theater critic for GAYRVA.com. A Chicago native, he holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He currently resides in Richmond, VA and is a member of the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Matthew Miller on Twitter twitter.com/matthewkmiller
For over 20 years, Henrico’s HATTheatre has offered a diverse collection of performances for folks of all ages and it appears the 2016-17 season will continue that trend. The company announced their new theatre season this week and below are the proposed shows. You can pick up season tickets and learn more about the group through [...]August 8, 2016
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