Parallelling the extended run New York's Jest A Second, James Sherman's sequel to his tremendously popular Beau Jest, Chicago's Victory Garden's Theatre will revive an earlier Sherman work, The God Of Isaac, as its final mainstage production of the season.
First produced at the Illinois theatre in 1985, The God Of Isaac tells of a Jewish man's search for spiritual identity, prompted by the threat of a neo-Nazi march in Skokie. Parodies of famous movies and interruptions by Isaac's mother also figure into the poignant comedy.
Artistic director Dennis Zacek, who staged the original Victory Gardens production, will also direct this revival, which begins previews May 16 and opens May 22 for a run through July 13.
Sherman, a playwright in residence at Victory Gardens since 1986, has also written Mr. 80%, This Old Man Came Rolling Home and his latest, Prelude, Fugue And Riffs, which is under consideration for Victory Gardens' next season. A former Second City improv trouper, Sherman also studied performance with Uta Hagen.
Asked how audiences would respond to the show in a different decade, Sherman told Playbill On-Line, " I certainly think the issues are still relevant. It will be interesting to see how the play is received by an audience now. I have a feeling we live in a more serious time than when the play was first done (1985/86), or maybe that's just a sign of my own advancing age." God Of Isaac remains special to Sherman because it was the play that began his professional relationship with Dennis Zacek and Victory Gardens: "Watching it now is like watching my life pass before my eyes - squared." Asked why he so often gravitates to Jewish themes in his work, Sherman replied, "My plays tend to feature Jewish characters for the same reason one sees black characters in August Wilson's plays, South Africans in Athol Fugard plays, Southeners in Beth Henley's plays, etc., etc. I once heard Edward Albee say, `Only out of very specific truths do we find a universal statement.'"
Isaac's cast includes Kraig Swartz, Debbie Bisno, Jennifer Chervenick, Dennis Cockrum, Henrietta Hermelin, and Bernie Landis.
For tickets ($23-$28) and information on The God Of Isaac at Theatre Victory Gardens Theatre on North Lincoln Ave., call (773) 549-5788, or refer to the regional listings on Playbill On-Line.
Founded in 1974, the not-for-profit Equity theatre has produced nearly 200 plays, the most recent being Root Causes (see Playbill On-Line story).
--By David Lefkowitz