“Bluish” offers a compelling story

Teatron has unearthed a little gem of a play by Atlanta writer Janece Shaffer called Bluish.

It tells the story of a young couple, Ben and Beth, preparing for their marriage. He is a risingly successful television newscaster, raised by traditional Jewish parents though insisting Judaism is a small part of his overall identity.

“There’s blue and bluish,” he tells his fiancée, adding “Dad’s a Jew. I’m Jew-ish.”

Beth has even less religion in her life. Her mother died when she was young, but after her father dies some family research reveals that her mother actually was Jewish.

Suddenly the dynamic of her relationship with Ben and his parents changes. Now her in-laws don’t just like her, they love her. As Beth begins learning more about her roots she starts making changes to the comfortable routine she and Ben have established.

The scenes between Melissa Battey-Pratt as Beth and Ron Boyd as Ben are filled with wonderful little touches – a look here, a pause there – that reveal a deep understanding of the characters and tensions they face.

Andria Siegler and Bob Cooper are Ben’s parents, a comfortable older loving couple. Siegler gets many of the play’s choice comic lines, but Cooper in a quieter performance actually makes more of an impression as he encourages Beth to embrace her new-found faith.

Carrie Adelstein has some fine moments as Ben’s divorced sister who somehow feels her failed marriage has made her an outcast.

Shaffer has a sensitive ear for dialogue that captures the way people really talk. It’s not a play filled with one-liners and jokes. These are true characters, and often you have the feeling you are eavesdropping on some very private conversations. Credit director Ari Weisberg with that.

The play is constructed as a series of short scenes, and this proves to be a little more problematic for both the director and the stage crew. Noam Bergman has provided some charming musical interludes, but as the show progresses the pauses between scenes become longer and longer, when all you want to do is get back into the story and see what happens next.

Indeed you do want to watch these characters work out their issues, but to label the play a “Jewish” play does it a disservice. I have no particular religious affiliation, yet I found the story interesting and compelling. I suspect you will as well.

By Mark Andrew Lawrence for the North York Mirror

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