BWW Review: JEWTOPIA at Desert Theatreworks
Desert Theatreworks is finishing their season with a bang - a top-notch production of the truly smart and hilarious comedy, Jewtopia. Two friends, one Jewish and one Gentile, are looking for girls to date. The Gentile wants a Jewish girl so he will never have to make another decision in his life, the Jew wants a Gentile girl who can cook, join him in sports, and take care of repairs around the house. Their search pokes gentle fun at stereotypes, particularly those assigned to Jews, but the writing is extremely funny, and DTW's delivery under director Lance Phillips-Martinez is top notch!
Although there are eight actors on stage, the show is first and foremost a buddy comedy, and Cody Franks as the Gentile and Lee Paddick as the Jew are a match made in Show Business Heaven! I have admired the work of each of these actors individually, but together, they are synergistic! Paddick as the neurotic Jew (and the script would suggest that that is a redundancy) almost bounces off the walls. Both vocally and physically, he imbues the script with every possible ounce of comedy. Franks is equally strong as the (slightly) more settled friend. Their onstage relationship convinces us that they have known each other most of their lives (though I suspect that the actors actually met during rehearsals), and the timing of their exchanges is a master class. The script was written by Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson and they played the buddies both for the first year of the Los Angeles run, and then for much of the three-and-a-half off Broadway run of the show. It is natural that the figurative spotlight is on them at most times.
The other six actors play a variety of supporting roles: Rabbi, mother, father, various dates, etc. It was great fun to see BWW reviewer Audrey Liebross as a Jewish mother, a role she has been preparing for over 60 years! Ann Van Haney, Jason Lewis, Ed Lefkowitz, Coco Girelli and Jana Baumann rounded out the cast. Each delivered what was needed for comedy and color.
The setting is a series of block walls which might have been a prison, a university, a synagogue, or perhaps Jericho, but in any event, they didn't seem to serve any real purpose as far as identifying a location. Phil Murphy's lighting followed his usual excellence at pointing our attention to the appropriate part of the stage, but I felt like a lot of the comedic interchanges could have been brighter - perhaps taking the gels out of half of the lights. We need to see faces for comedy, and I found myself leaning forward to hopefully see those faces a bit more clearly.
Jewtopia plays one more weekend, and there are only a limited number of tickets still available. I strongly recommend that you go online right now and claim seats for yourself. It's a funny, funny production, and one that would make for an enjoyable outing with friends. Tickets and further information are available at www.DTWorks.org.
Next up on the DTW mainstage is The 39 Steps from June 22 - July 1. The Hitchcock thriller becomes a hilarious comedy when four actors portray almost 150 characters, with plenty of physical pratfalls thrown in for good measure.