Florida Studio Theatre’s Jewtopia plays like an extended comedy skit.
By Kay Kipling
The premise of Jewtopia, currently running on Florida Studio Theatre’s mainstage, reads like a comedy skit, and in fact the show originated from a 10-minute bit by Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson, which finds two childhood friends meeting up as young men who are both looking for Jewish wives. One, Adam (Brandon Beilis), is in fact Jewish and wants to please his parents; the other, Chris (Patrick Noonan), is Gentile, but knows from college dating experience that his being with a Jewish woman means he’ll never have to make a decision for himself again.
Patrick Noonan and Brandon Beilis in a scene from FST’s Jewtopia.
That’s not a bad idea—for the original 10-minute skit. Extended to a full-length production, Jewtopia comes off as one comedy scene after another, most of which might entertain on their own for a short time. Strung together, however, they do not really make a play.
That’s not to say Jewtopia isn’t mildly amusing at times, and certainly the cast works hard to make it so. Chris and Adam decide to help each other out on their quest, which leads them to a Web site where Jewish singles can hook up. (Nayna Ramey’s set design reflects this, looking like the site’s home page spread across the stage like a computer screen.) Chris decides, somewhat arbitrarily, it seems, that Adam needs to try out four different Internet personae to attract girls (all of whom are played by Jessica Smolins), ranging from a sports lover to an ultra-Orthodox girl and so on. And Chris himself goes to extreme lengths to make his transformation into a Jewish husband-to-be complete. None of it is especially believable.
There are lots of jokes related to both Jewish and Christian stereotypes; there’s an obligatory seder scene where Adam brings home his Mongolian (read that non-Jewish) girlfriend; and there is some nice comedy work by Beilis, Noonan (although he occasionally tries too hard) and by Bonnie Black as two different Jewish mothers. The evening certainly moves along with alacrity, and the nearly sellout audience the night I attended certainly enjoyed it. But I found myself looking at my watch several times before the curtain fell.
Jewtopia runs through March 22 at FST; call 366-9000 or visit floridastudiotheatre.org.