BWW Reviews: Jewtopia Live: Modern Jewish Culture Explored and Explained
Jewtopia Live is a trenchant look at the culture that has grown up around Judaism in America. It opens at a Jewish singles event where we meet Chris O'Connell (Jeremy Rishe), a Christian who wants to be Jewish, marry a Jewish girl and, thus, have a wife "who cleans" and who "swallows" and whose very presence will enable him to never have to make another decision. His childhood friend Adam (Bryan Fogel) undertakes to teach him about being Jewish.
A pared-down version of the play that ran with great success off-Broadway and in Los Angeles, Jewtopia Live covers myriad subjects, all familiar to the audience. It takes in restaurant behavior - from choosing a table to ordering - food and food storage, the impact of Jews in entertainment, great moments in Jewish history,
In brief, Jewtopia Live is a fun but merciless look at modern Judaism with nothing left unsaid. It seems written and performed with the sure knowledge that Jews can laugh at themselves and, here, can say and listen to things they'd never wish to say in front of people who are not Jews.
The 90-minute performance, followed by an question-and-answer session was at the Suncoast Saturday and Sunday nights. Both nights were sold out so, clearly, the audience was looking for something like this. It was received with waves of laughter and applause.
The problems with the production were minor. The showroom at the Suncoast is a nice one but, sadly, the noise from the wait staff in the kitchen at the back of the room interfered with the show for the audience members seated in the back of the room. And, it would have helped to have a few large screens so that some of the schematics that were used to teach Chris how to be Jewish could be easily seen by everyone in the house. There were a lot of whispers of "What does that say?" going on when the charts were used on stage.
Fogel, who co-wrote the original play, a book and a forthcoming film, and Rishe are terrifically charming. They easily get away with saying things that, in other contexts might be objectionable. An evening with them is one well-spent.
Jewtopia Live was presented by the Jewish Repertory Theatre of Nevada (JRTN), a professional group that is getting ever more active. Coming soon is their Sunday series at the about-to-open Smith Center.