The search for love is an interesting endeavor. It always seems we want what we shouldn’t have. The staid and stolid types want the risky girl. The risky types want that quiet girl. Jews often want non-Jewish girls, whereas non-Jews are often drawn to Jewish girls. The latter two cases were the topics of this afternoon’s play, Jewtopia, at Rep East Playhouse.
Jewtopia tells the story of Chris and Adam, two young single men in their 30s, looking for love. Chris, more formally Chris O’Connell, a non-Jew, wants to find a good Jewish girl to marry so he never has to make a decision again… but the Jewish girls are uninterested in him because he’s a goy. His best friend, Adam Lipschitz, has the opposite problem: he’s more interested in shiksas (non-Jewish girls), but has the family pressure to find a Jewish girl to marry, so he needs to find one he likes. So these two make a pact: Adam will teach Chris how to be Jewish so that he can get the Jewish girl he wants, while Chris will introduce Adam to Jewtopia, the land of Jewish girls, and teach him how to attract a Jewish girl who will finally say “yes, yes, oh yes”. The rest of the play is the story of that question: Chris and his journey to convince the family of Alison Cohen that he is Jewish-enought for their daughter… and Adam and his journey through 155 Jdate dates to find a Jewish girl that he likes. Along the way, every (and I mean every) stereotype of Jewish families is exposed, ripped asunder, and exaggerated for humor and amusement (as examples, Jews never own tools, and if we do, we don’t know where they are or how to use them; Jews always are complaining about one medical problem or another, etc.)
Essentially, Jewtopia is a series of comic sketches highlighting what it means to be culturally Jewish. The traits they highlight may be exaggerated, but they are there and are touched upon out of a sense of love, not mocking. They quest they describe is true. I remember it from my college days, as well as from talking to my friends. If you are Jewish, you’ll enjoy this play and see yourself. If you are not Jewish… well, bring a Jewish friend to explain things to you.
The cast for this production was very good. The standouts were the two leads: Aaron Wong as Chris O’Connell and Marc Ginsburgæ as Adam Lipschitz. These two young men portray Chris and Adam in a very convincing manner, likable and earnest in their searches. Rounding out the cast in various supporting roles are Susan Huckle (various crazy girls, Jill), Michael Levine (Rabbi Schlomo / Grandpa Irving), Judy Greenberg (Marcy Cohen / Arlene Lipschitz), Bonnie He (Rachel Kahn / Nurse), and Darel Roberts (Dennis Lipschitz / Party Guy). The production was directed by Marlowe Weisman, assisted by Bill Quinn: a team that did a great job of bringing the inner Jew out of their actors, Jewish or not.
Technically, the production was relatively simple. Jeff Hyde’s set was primarily projections onto a pseudo-Torah. Costumes and additional set decor were by Lisa Melcombe, and captured the vibe well. Lighting and sound were by REP-regulars Tim Christianson and Steven “Nanook” Burkholder, respectively. Shawna Voragen was production stage manger.
Jewtopia was written by Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson.
“Jewtopia” continues at REP East until July 30. I’d tell you how to get tickets, but the run is already sold out. It will be returning to the REP in early 2012.
Upcoming Theatre, Concerts, and Dance: Next weekend brings Dolly Parton (July 23, Hollywood Bowl) and “Shrek” (July 24, Pantages Theatre, ticketed). July closes with “The Sound of Music” (July 30, Cabrillo Music Theatre, ticketed). August brings “The Boys Next Door” at REP East on August 13, and “On Golden Pond” at the Colony Theatre on August 20, and possibly the last Summer Evening at the Huntington with the Quarteto Neuvo on August 27. September currently only has one weekend booked: “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” at REP East on September 24; October shows “Shooting Star” at the Colony Theatre on October 1, “Annie” at Cabrillo Music Theatre on October 22, and (hopefully) Bernadette Peters at VPAC on October 16. October will also hopefully bring “The Robber Bridegroom” at ICT. Of course, I expect to fill some of the weekends in August, September, and October with productions that have yet to appear on the RADAR of Goldstar or LA Stage Alliance.