Chris O'Connell doesn't sound like someone who would attend a Jewish singles mixer, but that's where he runs into his old friend Adam Lipschitz. Crossing over religious and cultural divides is at the heart of the romantic comedy Jewtopia.
The context is unmistakable as the play kicks off with a circle dance to "Hava Nagila" by yarmulke-clad celebrants. That sort of broad comic caricature is a mainstay. In spite of the heavy-handed application of matzo balls and gefilte fish, the show somehow remains funnier than the title and premise promise.
Chris (Matthew Mickal) is a gentile who wants to marry a girlfriend who is Jewish. Why? Because he'll never have make another decision as long as he lives, he says. So he asks Adam (Joe Seibert) to show him the ropes and teach him the lingo. Adam favors shiksas (gentile women) because "They cook and clean and swallow." Brazen references like this abound.
At the core of the show, however, are obvious stereotypes. Goyim face daunting obstacles to converting, like the prospect of circumcision. When Chris has a dinner date with a Jewish woman, he asks Adam for Yiddish words to drop and typical Jewish mannerisms to use. "Say, 'It's drafty,'" replies Adam. "Demand another table. Send the food back. Tell them to turn down the music."
One of the friends finally flips over a Mongolian woman (Joy Chun Duke), but is she Jewish?
Playwrights Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson are both Jewish, and Jewtopia's farcical stereotpyes are in some sense self-mockery. It had hit runs in Los Angeles and off-Broadway in New York.
The cast at Le Chat Noir does an excellent job. The characters struggle through their surreal dilemmas with convincing despair. Among the standouts are Michael Cahill, Tari Hohn, Elizabeth Donner, Martin Covert and Veronica Belleto. Mazel tov to director Gary Rucker. — Dalt Wonk
8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 6 p.m. Sun.
Le Chat Noir, 715 St. Charles Ave., 581-5812; www.cabaretlechatnoir.com
Tickets $26 (includes $5 drink credit)