BILL O'NEILL - On the Town - Beau Jest a Playhouse success

Bill O'Neill, Collier Citizen Newspaper Columnist. / SUBMITTED

Bill O'Neill, Collier Citizen Newspaper Columnist. / SUBMITTED

It’s official as far as this reviewer is concerned. Kristen Coury’s Gulfshore Playhouse consistently presents the best theater in the area. The performances are always on the money - Lord knows what magic Ms. Coury uses to find the right actors and lure these professionals to Naples. The tone is always right. This company even manages to create attractive and workable sets in the tiny space at the Norris Center. They find interesting works to present, including some fine but lesser-known plays.

Beau Jest, playing through next weekend, is a case in point. This rather slight comedy is given a fast-paced, assured and very funny production. The story involves a nice Jewish girl, Sarah, who is dating a non-Jewish man. Not wanting to disappoint her parents she tells them that she has broken things off with her boyfriend, and she hires an out-of-work actor, Bob Schroeder, to play her parent’s dream son-in-law. She invents for him a history, a new name - David Steinberg - and a profession (medicine, naturally). Bob acts so well - even reciting Hebrew that he learned from a production of Fiddler on the Roof - that the parents are taken in. Sarah and Bob fall for each other, all is revealed, things are resolved nicely.

The play is not going to live in the annals of theater history, but there are laughs nearly all the way through. Zolan Henderson is handsome and appealing as the gentile actor Bob, Sarah Baskin is adorably frenetic as Sarah, and Jay Leibowitz and Lori Wilner bring humor and intelligence to the roles of Sarah’s parents. If these tended toward the stereotypical, well, perhaps stereotypes exist for a reason. The audience, many of whom understood the references better than I, enjoyed the show thoroughly, so who am I to take offense?

A Doll’s House is the next play that is to be presented by Gulfshore Playhouse. Ibsen would seem to be a challenge, even for a professional company. But with this group’s track record I look forward to seeing what they do with it.

For real-life drama, I must mention the experience of hearing Captain Jim Lovell share his personal reminiscences of the 1970 Apollo 13 mission. This is surely one of the great adventure stories of the 20th century, and it was a thrill to hear a first-hand account. I’m going out to rent the movie.

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