Beau Jest, Theatre Tillsonburg's third and final play of the 2016-17 season, is first and foremost a family comedy.
"It means a good joke," said Theatre Tillsonburg director Karen Tripp during last Thursday's rehearsal at the Otter Valley Playhouse on Potters Road, preparing for opening night Thursday, May 25. The play will run this week, May 25-28, and June 1-4, and tickets are available through the website (www.theatretillsonburg.com) or by calling the box office 519-688-3026 (email firstname.lastname@example.org).
"It's about a girl who thinks her parents won't like her boyfriend," said Tripp. "So she has to come up with the boyfriend. Unfortunately she has created a pretend boyfriend, then hires somebody to play her pretend boyfriend. Of course the other thing is, the actor she hires is not Jewish."
Sarah's Jewish parents really like the pretend boyfriend... and so does she, creating an interesting twist.
"She ends up with too many boyfriends."
It's the family dynamics, said Tripp, that makes it appealing.
"The family has stuff to sort out. They're not young people, it's not like they're 17. It's a family that has developed some patterns through a long time. The question is 'can you change the way a family works so that it is better for everybody?'
"It's a cute play to end the season, kind of light-hearted and fun. The first one (Ten Times Two), the one that went to Festival, it was quite dramatic. The second one, Guys in a Garage, it was so guy-powered. We had to return it to the women. We always look for something that will give variety."
Tripp has her own family connection in the play - her brother Jeff and sister-in-law Sheila are the producers. Joan Weston did props, Jane Brown costumes, Harry VandenBiggelaar lights, Sean Goble sound and light design, and Stacey Riley is stage manager (and co-director).
On stage they have Mark Smith, Angela Carvalho, Tammy Smoke, Lisa Carron, Bob Smolders and Adam Glass.
"We have a couple new people to the stage and some old, so it's been interesting blending everybody together," said Tripp, noting both Smoke and Glass are the 'rookies.'
There have been a couple curves thrown at Beau Jest, not related to anything that happened on-stage. Tripp was scheduled for surgery last week, and one of the actors - Tammy Smoke - broke her foot just over a week ago.
"We're trying to make some compensations so she doesn't have to do as much walking," said Tripp. "We're not replacing her, she wants to do it. She has an air cast on it. And as soon as her sprain is better, which we assume will be better by Thursday..."
Learning Jewish phrases and customs added to the challenge for the Beau Jest actors, said Tripp, but it was worth taking the time to learn.
"I have a friend in Tillsonburg, her sister lives in Jerusalem. She went through the script and explained what it all meant, so the cast has had a tape to work from. 'This is what you're actually saying...'"
An Ostrander man with a Jewish background also consulted on the play.
"He's come out quite a bit and helped us."
Tripp is certain the audience won't have trouble understanding terminology, she said, because in most cases they either 'show' or 'tell.' For example, there is a noodle dish they hold up while saying the Jewish word. The audience also benefits from the hired boyfriend who does not know Jewish customs.
"He has to figure things out, so he is their voice. He says, 'what is this...?' There are some lines in the beginning where he says, 'who brings that?' It sort of introduces that it's going to come up later."