After a successful world premiere at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre in 1995, followed by runs at Lake George Dinner Theatre, Meadowbrook Theatre, Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse and Off-Broadway's Jewish Repertory Theatre, James Sherman's Jest A Second now finds itself on the west coast. The comedy starts off the 1999-00 season at CA's Long Beach Playhouse, running March 12-April 17.
The play, directed by Warren Davis, is a sequel to Sherman's long-running Off-Broadway comedy, Beau Jest. Picking up where Beau left off, Jest A Second shows Sarah and her non-Jewish escort-turned boyfriend now married. Sarah's brother, Joel, is in the midst of a divorce and has met a new love. Good news: Randy's a doctor and Jewish! Bad news: Randy's a man, and Joel's ex will use this against him in her custody battle.
Asked in January 1997 by e-mail, where he got the idea for a sequel in which the brother turned out to be gay, Sherman wrote, "My best friend in the world is a gay man with children. Also, among the many productions of Beau Jest I have seen over the years, I saw one in which the actor playing Joel gave me pause to wonder if the character might be gay. I played Joel once myself and played it as if I was gay to see if there was anything to contradict that possibility -- There isn't."
With the success of Jest I & II, can a third be far behind? "As an opening night gift for Jest A Second," wrote Sherman, "I was given `the Top Ten third installation titles,' including `Jest Another Minute,' and `Jest Cause.'"
* After spending four weeks in Jest, Long Beach Playhouse gets serious with A Soldier's Play, Charles Fuller's Pulitzer-winning drama of murder in a black army barracks, circa 1944. I Need A Break Productions and The Paul Robeson Players are co-producing the mounting with Long Beach Playhouse, April 23-June 5. Charles Gray directs.
Comedy and drama mix in Bernard Slade's Tribute (June 11-July 17), about a likeable but soulless womanizer shown up by his own son.
Donald Margulies' Obie-winning Sight Unseen follows (July 23-Aug. 28), telling of an in-demand painter coping with fame and haunted by an early work no longer in his possession. Margulies penned this season's Off Broadway hit, Collected Stories.
Drawing room comedy ensues in The Ladies of the Camellias (Sept. 3-Oct. 9), which pits two legendary actresses against each other: Eleonora Duse and Sarah Bernhardt. Robert G. Leigh directs.
Terrence McNally's wildly comic but also darkly passionate The Lisbon Traviata arrives Oct. 15-Nov. 27. Marla Gam-Hudson directs this look at one gay man mad for opera, and another nearly driven mad by an affair gone wrong. Other McNally plays include Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class.
Finishing the century (but not the season) is Alan Ayckbourn's satire, A Chorus of Disapproval (Dec. 3, 1999-Jan. 22, 2000). Steven Fiorello directs this farcical look at a widower who suddenly finds himself thrust into the lead role at an amateur acting company. Ayckbourn's darkly shaded comedies include Communicating Doors, Woman in Mind and Absent Friends.
Closing the Long Beach Playhouse season will be the U.S. premiere of The Mysterious Mr. Love, Karoline Leach's "Edwardian" chiller about a charming fortune hunter who finds his vulnerable next victim. Darlene Hunter-Chaffee directs.
For subscription ($85-$119) and single ticket information on shows at the 70-year-old Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 East Anaheim Street, call (562) 494-1616 or check out their website at http://www.longbeachplayhouse.com.
-- By David Lef Â