Beau Jest: On Stage at 2nd Space in Fresno

Jul 11, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance V. Mc Arthur

Beau Jest has nothing to do with the French Foreign Legion. Beau Geste was a 1924 P. C. Wren novel (repeatedly adapted for the screen) about English brothers who end up in the Foreign Legion. A beau geste is a grand and honorable gesture or act. A beau is a boyfriend. A jest is a joke. Beau Jest, now playing at the Good Company Players’ Second Space, is James Sherman’s comic play about a nice Jewish girl trying to fool her parents by hiring an actor to pretend to be her non-existent Jewish-doctor boyfriend. I hope that clears up any misunderstandings. Be prepared for a quiz later.

Kristen Henson (Ulla in GCP’s The Producers) is Sarah Goldman, a kindergarten teacher who never feels that she can satisfy her parents. Kristen is panicky, passionate, and puzzled by the feelings that grow between her and her faux boyfriend. This isn’t just a comedy where people run around and shout at each other, it’s one where they run around, shout, and kiss, so you have to like the people that are kissing, and you find yourself liking Kristen’s Sarah.

Raul Reyes (Chris), Kristen Henson (Sarah Goldman), Chris Scott (Bob)

Patrick Allan Tromborg is a multitalented teacher, director, builder, and actor, with dozens of local shows to his credit. His direction shows sureness and confidence in his small cast, using the scene breaks as continuations of—and counterpoints to—the action.

Chris Scott is big, genial, and in the Brendan-Fraser-goofy mold, adorable as Bob, the sometime-male-escort-actor who calls on his knowledge of Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, and many of the very-odd-jobs he has had, to pass as Jewish for Sarah’s family. Bob’s caring for Sarah builds in a believable way.

Raul Reyes as Chris, the non-Jewish advertising man that Sarah can’t show her parents, is all awkwardness and stiffness, a contrast to Bob’s ease and fluidity. He doesn’t fit with Sarah’s family, but he does care about the girl.

Billy Anderson’s Joel, Sarah’s therapist brother, comes across as somewhere between Gilbert Gottfried and Steve Correll, minus some of the abrasiveness. He shines in a scene where he deconstructs Sarah’s fears and conflicts with a Dr. Phil moment.

Sandra Montelongo puts a Laine Kazan sheen to her Good-Company-debut portrayal of Miriam, Sarah’s mother. There is love of her husband and children, with that obsessive meddling in the lives of her offspring that knows no cultural limits…any family of any ethnicity will recognize it.

Henry Montelongo is Abe, the dry-cleaning patriarch of the family. Understudy Chris Carsten, a castmate of Montelongo in several shows, filled in at the performance I saw, providing a gruff base for the action.

Sandra Montelongo (Miriam) and Henry Montelongo (Abe)

David Pierce’s Chicago apartment set is detailed, down to the electrical outlets, and Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s costumes accent Kristen’s warmth. The lighting of a one-set comedy would seem a simple task, but Evan Commins uses windowspill to work with the interlude lighting that creates mood and visibility for the prop and position changes.

Beau Jest is heavy on the Jewish culture, and the more you know, the more of the jokes you’ll get. Bob’s Gentile ignorance of some parts of the Passover Seder set up some laughs…and create tender moments as he realizes the depth of the Hebrew experience. It’s very Jewish…and NOT the French Foreign Legion.

Beau Jest plays at the 2nd Space Theatre, 928 E. Olive Avenue, Thursdays through Sundays until August 12. Thursday shows are at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays are at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 general admission; $15 students & seniors. Contact the box office at 266-0660 or 1-800-371-4747; open Tues. – Sun., beginning at 10 a.m.

Check back here every Wednesday evening for a new Local Live & check the 2nd Space
KRL event page often for updates on their current shows.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He is currently writing a stage adaptation of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild for the Fresno County Public Library’s next The Big Read. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.



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