JEWTOPIA is a Hidden Gem

by Walter Bender

The cast members from Collaborative Act Studio's entertaining production of JEWTOPIA, running through May 29th in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Collaborative Act Studio in Cherry Hill has opened its third offering of its season, JEWTOPIA by Bryan Fogel & Sam Wolfson. As it says in the press release, “JEWTOPIA tells the story of two 30 year old single men, Chris O’Connell and Adam Lipschitz. Chris, a gentile wants to marry a Jewish girl so he’ll “never have to make another decision for the rest of his life”. Adam, a Jew, wants to marry a Jewish girl to “please his family “. After meeting at a Jewish singles mixer, Adam and Chris form a secret pact. Chris promises to help Adam find the Jewish girl of his dreams and show him ‘Jewtopia’, but only if Adam will help Chris shed his gentile-ness and bring him undercover into the Jewish world.

Chris and Adam, played with great joy and energy by Patrick Poole and Jonathan Fink respectively, show great chemistry. As Adam takes Chris deeper into the Jewish world they encounter a number of others (Brett Molotsky, Cindy Lefler, Jodi Raditz, Steven Ciapanna, and Deborah Rementer) who provide foils for the interplay between these two men. Ms. Raditz, who plays a myriad of roles shows great versatility and some great comedic style. Her J-Date girl is annoyingly hilarious. Ms. Lefler shows a great familiarity with the Jewish mother. Mr. Ciapanna as Rabbi Shlomo and the borderline perv Grandfather Irving gives a very effective performance, and Mr. Molotsky as Adam’s father is the long-suffering peacemaker. Ms. Rementer gives a very effective performance.

The show is fast-paced (perhaps a bit too fast-paced at times), and moves from one scene to the next with a wonderful choreography. The performers move very fluidly from one situation to the next. Director Ted Wioncek III shows a lot of skill in positioning his actors, and his scene changes are fun to watch.

But the main players in this journey through the world of Jewtopia are definitely Chris and Adam. Poole and Fink work extremely well together. Their interplay shows some great comedic timing and familiarity with each others’ moves. Some of their scenes are very physically demanding, and they show no hesitancy moving from one situation to another.

I attended the preview performance of this show, and there were a few things still needing to be cleaned up…some of the
lines were delivered so fast it was difficult to follow, the changes from being in the scene to breaking the 4th wall weren’t clear at times, and the lighting effects didn’t adequately accent as they were intended. And, in a couple scenes it seemed the actors weren’t fully committed to the movements. In the second act, the cast was working very well with each other as well as the audience. As the show moved on and the actors got comfortable with the audience and that energy, the show settled into a very good pace and the audience was enjoying everything.

Collaborative Act Studio is a hidden gem in the NJ arts community. JEWTOPIA is a wonderful example of the skill and talent of this group. Take the time to find this theater and see this wonderful production.

by Bryan Fogel & Sam Wolfson
Directed by Ted Wioncek III
May 13 – 29, 2010
Collaborative Act Studio
Fusion Performing Arts Center
1931 Olney Avenue, Suite 100
Cherry Hill, NJ

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