Jewish-themed comedy centers around fear of coming out, but family is at the heart of it
Jest a Second!, the sequel to Beau Jest (presented by Cherry Creek Theatre in 2017), follows the Goldman family a couple of years after the original production. It’s mom Miriam’s birthday, daughter Sarah is about to give birth any second, and surprise! Brother Joel is gay.
Everyone is gathering at Sarah’s home for the big occasion, and Joel gets there early to tell Sarah he’s coming out, and that Randy, who everyone has been assuming is his girlfriend, is actually his boyfriend. When Randy arrives, Joel finds he just can’t go and be honest with his parents. He hustles Randy away before he can get in the door. As he does this, Sarah’s husband Bob has a brilliant idea: He’ll trot out his costume from La Cage Aux Folles and pretend to be Joel’s girlfriend, “Randy.”
It’s a recipe for a screwball comedy that, while it hits on some familiar sitcom-like tropes, nevertheless delivers plenty of laughs.
The second act takes place after the birth of Sarah’s baby, when everyone gathers again for the bris. Joel still hasn’t come out to his parents, and his dad seems to even find Bob/“Randy” attractive. “Randy” makes another appearance, and hijinks ensue. It all ends in a way that is both amusing and affirming.
Does this all sound confusing? Are you concerned that if you haven’t seen Beau Jest, you won’t be able to follow what’s going on? Well, no worries on either score. I hadn’t seen Beau Jest but gathered quickly from context that it also featured Sarah’s husband Bob pretending to be someone he was not — in that case, a Jewish “Dr. Steinberg.” There is just enough dialog about this that anyone who hasn’t seen the earlier play will be able to figure it out, but happily, not so much that it seems like an info dump. And while explaining it may make it sound confusing, watching it is not.
Jest a Second! is a little silly. No one can really believe the fake Randy is a woman, right? Or that anyone would attempt to fool their own in-laws. But as I listened to the audience laughing, I couldn’t help but think we probably all need a little more silly in our lives right now, and pretty much everyone seemed to find it funny. Is it over the top? Yes. Believable? Not particularly. And I don’t think anyone cared. There is a scene where Bob and “Randy” are “both” under the table looking for an errant bagel. It’s a little ridiculous, and also probably worth the price of admission just for the laughs.
I also couldn’t help but be struck by Joel’s (played by Andy Dus) humanity. You hear his side of the conversations with his ex-wife and children. You see him agonize over coming out to his parents. And with all the silliness, all of Bob’s pretending to be someone he is not, you see Joel struggle to be who he really is. It’s a great role and a great performance. There is another sub plot with Bob, who has now converted to Judaism, being keeping Kosher and out-orthodoxing the rest of the family. This presents some tender moments as well.
Overall, I found Jest a Second! a hoot, and the audience was laughing throughout. My daughter, who was with me, is currently binge-watching Gilmore Girls and felt like this had something of the same sensibility and conversational style. I think everyone watching probably left a little happier, and sometimes you really can’t ask much more than that.