Playwright James Sherman has crafted a charming and delightful work with his play Jacob and Jack. It's a fond remembering of the last days of the Yiddish theatre and it weaves in the modern day with the past with considerable flair. It has farcical elements, including the requisite doors, six in this case, to go in and out of while the action switches back and forth between the two times. The New Jewish Theatre has put together a lovely rendering of this show, and the cast is absolutely superb. This is a brisk-paced comedy that's absolutely worth seeing.
Jack Shore's acting career and marriage are in flux. He's been the “flying carpet guy” for years, but he wants something different, or at least for that opportunity to continue. He's in dutch with his wife because of his flirtatious manner, which comes to the fore when he meets a young ingenue who's going to be performing with him and his wife. But, he's used to television work, and he's not prepared to walk on stage to a full house. Panicked would be the operative word. Contrast this with Jacob Shemerinsky a egotistical, philandering actor in 1935 who replaces the original ingenue with one he's hand-picked because he's got the hots for her. How this all comes together makes for a fascinating and fun evening of theatre.
Bobby Miller is excellent as Jacob and Jack and moves easily between the two characters. He's neurotic as Jack and suave as Jacob, but he makes the transitions incredibly smoothly. Kari Ely is Lisa and Leah, the long-suffering wife to both these men. As Lisa, she's fed up with Jack's roving eye, and wants a strong commitment from him, and as Leah she's become more resigned to her husband's extracurricular activities. Ely and Miller are simply wonderful to watch together.
The rest of the cast is top notch as well. Julie Layton plays Robin and Rachel, the former, a highly talented actress that Jack and he agent are pushing to pursue a Hollywood career. And, as Rachel she's a novice, who's won over by Jacob's sweet talk and has visions of going westward herself. Terry Meddows is Jack's agent, Ted, who's constantly trying to handle Jack's peccadilloes, while making sure his wife doesn't catch him canoodling with his young co-star. As Abe he's the stage manager from 1935, who has to tell the cast that, not only is the audience for their show incredibly small, but it's also non-existent for the rest of their supposed run. Justin Ivan Brown is also quite good checking on the the actor's needs backstage in the present as Don, and also as a Hollywood-bound young actor who's changing his name from Moishe to Mickey. Donna Weinsting rounds out the cast nicely as Jack's loving mother, and as Rachel's mother, who's not sold on her pursuing an acting career, until Jacob fills her head with praise.
Edward Coffield's direction is stellar, with the action on stage creating a number of hearty laughs, but this is also a sentimental piece, and that aspect is neatly captured as well. Robert Mark Morgan's scenic design accurately captures the tiny and cramped dressing rooms that exist in a lot of older theatres. Kimberly Klearman's lighting focuses our attention on whatever is going on at the time, and lends a bit to the dramatic aspects of the script as well. Michele Friedman Siler's costumes work well for both time periods portrayed.
The New Jewish Theatre's clever and amusing production of Jacob and Jack continues through May 20, 2012.