Beau Jest, Attic Playhouse. My gentile in-laws used to try to make me feel comfortable about being Jewish by inserting Yiddish words into the conversation–words like “bagel.” That’s approximately the level of understanding of Jewish culture in James Sherman’s romantic comedy about a young woman, Sarah, and the actor she hires to impersonate the perfect Jewish boyfriend over dinner with her parents. It’s nonetheless a sturdy little play, minor-league Neil Simon, and can be counted on to work–if it’s played broadly enough. Otherwise Sarah’s determination to conceal her life from her parents starts to seem not funny but manipulative and childish.

Unfortunately, Donna Lubow has directed the romance rather than the comedy, and cast a Sarah (Jessica Granger) whose comic skills are insufficient to power the play. As a result, the Attic Playhouse’s production creaks along, leaving the audience ample time to question the entire premise. This is most apparent in the second-act seder scene, which is designed to be done at breakneck speed and is done here with a tenderness and delicacy befitting the most Orthodox household. This naturalism does in the entire cast, except for Jason Brouwer as the rent-a-boyfriend: he too is sweet rather than funny, but as the straight man that’s his job. Davi Weiss and Norb Weisman, though convincing as Jewish parents, are unpersuasive as the larger-than-life comic obstacles around whom such a plot must revolve.

More jest, less beau, and they’d have themselves a show.

–Kelly Kleiman