Jewtopia -- Theater Review

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Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson's "Jewtopia" returns to Los Angeles, where the popular comedy debuted in 2003, in a slimmed-down, snappier form -- "New jokes! New Jews!" -- even funnier than the original. If you like your stereotypes over-the-top, indecently wicked and occasionally raunchy, the streamlined show will not disappoint.

The basic plot remains the same: Childhood friends Adam Lipschitz (Adam Korson) and Chris O'Connell (Conor Dubin) meet at a temple singles mixer and decide they can help each other get what they want most. For the anxiety-ridden and socially awkward Adam, it's finding the Jewish girl of his dreams. For Irish-Catholic Chris, who does fine with the ladies, it's finding a Jewish female to marry so he "never has to make another decision." The deal is struck: Chris will teach Adam how to pick up Jewish girls, and Adam will teach Chris how not to act like a gentile and pass as a Jew. Oy vey.

The ridiculous premise proves to be a fine strategy for exploring many of the most common and invidious Jewish stereotypes as seen from an insider and outsider's point of view. Jews and food is a particular favorite. A trip to a restaurant pushes all the right buttons for the audience, who literally screamed with laughter capped by a round of grateful applause. A chaotic Passover seder also figures prominently as Adam's odd family, especially his outraged mother (Cheryl David at her outraged best) reacts badly to Adam's Asian date, Rachel (Kari Lee Cartwright), and Chris' carefully crafted cover as a Jew is blown. Fortunately, Rachel turns out to be a doctor.

The lampooning is fairly even-handed. The males tend to be dorky, needy, horny, scheming, bland and unmanly, not to mention desperate. The females tend to be self-centered, critical, controlling, self-righteous and clueless about guys, not to mention desperate. Gentiles get off easier, though not entirely, as their fondness for tools, guns, emotional distance and disliking Jews is on the show's agenda.

Dubin, whose character doesn't make much sense, brings Chris artfully to life in all his contradictory glory. Korson's Adam also is more of a premise than a person, and occasionally his babbling gets tiresome. Thea Brooks pushes too hard in some of her early characterizations -- her Fran Drescher laugh needs work -- but partly redeems herself later on. Bart Braverman and Mark Sande lend able support as a rabbi and Adam's father, respectively.

Beneath all the mishigas onstage, the show basically has a good heart. As pointed and unsparing as some of the scenes and jokes are, they're not (overly) mean-spirited. An ecumenical spirit eventually prevails. Fogel also directs.

Venue: Greenway Court Theatre, West Hollywood (through Sept. 19)
Cast: Conor Dubin, Adam Korson, Cheryl David, Bart Braverman, Thea Brooks, Mark Sande, Kari Lee Cartwright
Playwrights: Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson
Director: Bryan Fogel
Set designer: Francois-Pierre Couture
Lighting designer: Lap Chi Chu
Costume designer: Kharen Zeunert
Producers: Courtney Mizel, Bryan Fogel
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