“Jacob and Jack”- A Delightful Entertainment With A Dynamite Cast

Some plays aren’t so much “plays” as they are an “entertainment.” This is the case with the latest effort at the New Jewish Theatre as a light story becomes delightfully witty in the hands of a great cast and great director. “Jacob and Jack,” by playwright James Sherman, is a tidy little farce that travels through time as we celebrate early Yiddish theatre.

Terry Meddows, Jason Ivan Brown, Julie Layton and Bobby Miller ham it up at the New Jewish Theatre production of “Jacob and Jack.”

Director Edward Coffield brings that zany, fast-paced feel to the production that is needed for success. The three dressing rooms and five doors on stage provide all that is needed as a basis for farce. There’s nothing like slamming doors, perfectly timed entrances and exits and sheer befuddlement to make an audience laugh. Bring to that the present day story combined with a tie-in to 1935, and you’ve got even more to befuddle a cast who were right on the money on opening night.

Basically, we’re seeing the backstage area as actors prepare for a tribute to early Yiddish theatre and suddenly we’re transformed to that same theatre when the parties being honored show us what it was really like then. Bobby Miller gets to shine again as both the modern day actor who thrives on TV and commercials as he half-heartedly prepares for the podium and his grandfather who starred in those plays almost 80 years in the past. He gets to kvetch as the current actor who hasn’t even looked at his lines and switch to the pompous blowhard who, at the time, played to mostly empty houses. The one thing they have in common, however, is a sharp eye for the ladies.

As the object of their affections, Julie Layton is a sweet, blushing ingenue in her early life while a wiser and hard-edged actress in today’s world. Oh, yes, both the cynical and pompous actors are married at the time and Kari Ely dazzles in this dual role. Though well aware of her husband’s penchant for the younger starlets, she takes a different approach in these two worlds.

Terry Meddows is remarkable as the agent to “Mr. Flying Carpet” (a reference to his most famous commercial) and then as the stage manager of the earlier actors. As the present day stage manager, Justin Ivan Brown takes a more “delicate” approach and then turns into a young actor with his first break during the dying days of the Yiddish theatre experience. A delightful turn as two mothers- that of the modern day actor and then the mother of the young ingenue in the flashbacks- Donna Weinsting is nothing short of brilliant. She is delightful. The unexpected meeting, on several occasions, of past and present characters also adds to the fun.

Add the inventive set design of Robert Mark Morgan and the quick and effective costumes of Michele Friedman Siler, and you’ve got all the makings of a fast-paced comedy/farce. Despite a few sloppy accents, things go smoothly and we’re treated to a wonderful evening of entertainment. “Jacob and Jack” plays at the New Jewish Theatre through May 20th. Contact them at 314-442-3283 or newjewishtheatre.org for tickets or more information.

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