"Beau Jest," a sweet romantic comedy not often performed in this area, receives a solid production by Onstage Repertory Theatre Company under Helen Means' astute direction.

Written by James Sherman, the very humorous show tells of Sarah, a nice Jewish girl, and an impending family dinner where Sarah is to present her boyfriend, a nice Jewish doctor.

Unfortunately, the doctor only exists in Sarah's imagination. She is, in fact, dating a decidedly non-Jewish man named Chris Kringle. When Sarah can no longer postpone the family dinner, she hires an actor (Bob) to impersonate the imaginary doctor. Chaos ensues as one dinner leads to another, Chris Kringle looses his jolly demeanor and Sarah and Bob find themselves attracted to one another.

Yael Aranoff does a lovely job as the stressed-out Sarah who finds herself having to choose between two men -- neither of whom is Jewish. Lynne Elizondo and Avi Jacobson are marvelous as the parents, with Joseph Hirsch adding some nice touches as Sarah's suspicious brother.

It's always a pleasure to watch Ben Ortega (Bob) perform, and this is no exception. He gives Bob a rich complexity as he attempts to convince Sarah's parents that he is both Jewish and a doctor. Convincing them he is attracted to their daughter proves much easier.

James Frankle has the dubious honor of portraying Kringle, the previous (so the family thinks) boyfriend. Diane McRice designed the well-appointed set, with lighting and sound by Randall Nott.


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"Beau Jest" continues through Sept. 7, at the Martinez Campbell Theater, 636 Ward St. in Martinez. Thursday through Saturday shows are at 8 p.m. with Sunday's closing performance at 2:30 p.m. For tickets, call 925-518-3277.

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    Local audiences have lots of tough choices this week as many theater companies launch their new seasons.

    Center Rep began previews of the '60s doo-wop musical, "Life Could Be a Dream" last week. The show about a fledgling singing group, which features Derek Keeling from the Broadway production of "Grease" as the heartthrob lead singer, continues through Oct. 5, at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center.

    Also at the Lesher and also set in the 1960s is the West Coast premiere of "Dogfight." Produced by OMG, I Love That Show, the off-Broadway smash hit follows three young Marines on the eve of their deployment to Vietnam as they enjoy one last night in San Francisco.

    The show runs Sept. 5—21. For tickets to "Life Could Be a Dream" or "Dogfight," call 925-943-SHOW (925-943-7469) or go to www.lesherartscenter.org.

    Over in the Orinda Hills, California Shakespeare Theater presents Shakespeare's oh-so-popular comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Directed by Shana Cooper with choreography by Erika Chong Shuch, the perennial favorite runs Sept. 3-28, at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda.

    The cast includes Danny Scheie (who did a stellar performance in the company's recent "The Comedy of Errors") as Puck, Margo Hall as Bottom, and Erika Chong Shuch as both Titania and Hippolyta.

    Role Players Ensemble adds to the bountiful theatrical choices with Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Directed by George Maguire, the sizzling drama features Megan Trout as Maggie, Josh Schell as Brick, and Randy Anger as Big Daddy.

    The show runs Sept. 5—20, at the Village Theatre, 233 Front St., in Danville. Call 925-314-3400 or go to www.roleplayersensemble.com.

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    I had the opportunity to see the first staged reading of a new musical last week that seemed much more like a finished production than a work in progress. "Canyon Road," written by local playwrights Gretchen Givens and Linda Gregg, weaves a fascinating tale about relationships, primarily those thorny issues that strain the mother/daughter bond.

    While some of the writing needs to be tweaked and a few of the songs shortened, it is already a very entertaining piece of theater. An added bonus is having the majority of the recorded music arranged and played by the incredible Joe Barnett. Kevin Harris did the remaining arrangements and recordings following Barnett's untimely death.

    Doing a stellar job on stage were Linda Sciacqua, Jene Bombardier, 10-year-old Caroline Crossland and Sal Russo. Hopefully, "Canyon Road" will receive a full-scale production in the near future.

    Contact Sally Hogarty at sallyhogarty@gmail.com.