After a successful world premiere at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre in 1995, followed by runs at Lake George Dinner Theatre, Meadowbrook Theatre and Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse, James Sherman's Jest A Second! arrived at Off-Broadway's Jewish Repertory Theatre June 15. The play is a sequel to Sherman's long-running Off-Broadway comedy, Beau Jest. Initially scheduled to close June 29, Jest A Second first extended to July 6 and will now run to (at least) July 20. Jewish Rep's 1997-98 season doesn't begin until October.
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.
Sherman told Playbill On-Line (June 26) "Jest A Second is currently playing in Germany and South Africa, as well as Off-Broadway." As for the mixed reviews received by the Jewish Rep production, Sherman said, "---- `em, if they can't take a joke, right? I'm mostly happy with the production and the audiences are mostly liking it."
Asked in January 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."
Dennis Zacek, the original director of Jest A Second! and Artistic Director of the Victory Gardens Theater, will direct the show at Jewish Rep. Starring will be Roslyn Alexander, Stan Lachow, Jordan Leeds, Michael Perreca, Linnea Todd and Paul Urcioli. Designing the show, which officially opens June 15, will be Bruce Goodrich (set & costumes) and Deborah Constantine (lighting). 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.'" Sherman did tell Playbill On-Line (June 30) his next non-Jest play would probably be titled, "Prelude, Fugue And Riffs," to be tentatively staged at Victory Gardens in Chicago this-coming season.
For tickets ($35) and information on Jest A Second! at Jewish Repertory Theatre, housed at Playhouse 91 on East 91st St., call (212) 831 2000. Other recent shows at JRT include The Disputation and Old Wicked Songs.
--By David Lefkowitz