Thursday, March 6, 2014

Latkes and Love at Beaverton Civic Theatre

Jessica Reed and Seth Haas
By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker
People go to the theater for many different reasons. After a kind of tough week, we went last Saturday in search of a pleasant, entertaining evening; BCT’s production of  Crossing Delancey delivered that and more. Author Susan Sandler’s story about Isabelle (“Izzy”), a nice Jewish girl finding love in New York City, is a gentle romantic comedy that earns more chuckles than belly laughs, but leaves its audience with a warm glow.

BCT is known for its ingenious, functional use of space. Set designer Alex Woodard’s creation makes the most of the limited space available, using a vertically placed bench to separate the bookstore (Izzy’s workplace) from her grandmother Bubbie’s kitchen. Move the bench to a horizontal position and voila! – it becomes a third location, allowing the action to move without interruption.  The kitchen set is particularly attractive and engaging, with its accurate reproduction of everybody’s Bubbie’s kitchen – right down to the old gas stove and grandmotherly refrigerator magnets.

Director Stan Yeend makes an impressive directorial debut at BCT, eliciting fine performances from his five-person cast. Jessica Reed (“Izzy”) gives a bright and believable interpretation to a complex lead role. She moves easily from a stereotypical modern city girl, proudly rejecting the cultural clichés of her East side origins, to a grounded woman who finds happiness when she strips away her superficial illusions and delusions.

Valarie Griffiths Brown and Adam Caniparoli
Lauren Bronson (“Bubbie”) is a wonderful character actress who creates a classic Jewish grandmother; typical but not clichéd. She projects a warmth that quickly shifts to sharp determination when obstacles arise – a quiet steamroller who will not be deterred. Her friend and co-conspirator Hanna (played by Valarie Griffiths Brown) embraces her inner matchmaker with the same enthusiasm she brings to a plate full of kugel. She is loud and brash, with the subtlety of a used-car salesman – and she is very, very funny.

The play’s two men are polar opposites, and Adam Caniparoli (“Sam” the pickle salesman) and Seth Haas (“Tyler” the Great Author) skillfully embody their roles.

Caniparoli is exceptionally multidimensional – pragmatic, philosophical, thoughtful, educated, and overwhelmingly likeable. We hope to see more of this talented young actor on Westside stages. Versatile BCT veteran Haas is equally effective, if much less likeable, as a man with but one dimension – his own ego. His smarmy affect opens Izzy’s eyes to the importance of real character – as Sondheim once said, “Nice is different from good.”

Lisa Bodry’s lighting design is an essential component of the show, defining areas and moods and utilizing a carefully placed spotlight (nice job, Tonja Schreiber!) to allow Izzy to occasionally break the third wall and chat companionably with the audience. 

Crossing Delancey is chicken soup to the theater lover’s soul, yet carries an unexpected depth that lingers long after the evening ends. So see it bubelah, you’ll be glad you did!

Beaverton Civic Theatre’s production of Crossing Delancey plays at the Beaverton Civic Library Auditorium through Saturday, March 15th with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and a Sunday matinee at 2:00 p.m. on March 9th.


1 comment:

  1. This company's past performances and productions make this an obvious pick for my Entertainment dollars. Glad they've got another winner on their hands.