The jokes may be broad, the characters stereotypical, and performances far from nuanced, but Andy Shultz’s The Jew Who Saved Christmas!, the latest from Zombie Joes Underground Theatre Group, does precisely what a comedy is supposed to do—it makes you laugh.
The Jew in question would seem to be the schlumpy Larry Epstein (Adam Neubauer), who’s once again spending Christmas Eve with his atheist lesbian roommate Lilith (Kyle Marie Colucci), the two of them awaiting the delivery of Chinese takeout, estimated time of arrival three hours from now. (Did I mention that tonight is also Larry’s birthday eve and the first night of Chanukah?)
In any case, the long wait ahead gives Larry plenty of time to not-so-willingly welcome a slew of visitors.
Best buddy Mike (David Wyn Harris) arrives first, seemingly with no other purpose than to rub in the fact that Larry has once again been dumped, this time by Sally (Bonnyjean Hoffert).
Rabbi Reuben (Tom Jones) drops by to find out why Larry’s been missing temple and to sing a Chanukah ditty. Next-door nympho Mary (Caroline Muniak) shows up in hopes of a Christmas Eve quickie with her chunky neighbor. Born-again Bible-armed Alex (Brady Glasser) would like nothing better than to share The New Testament with The Jew.
Larry’s MILF of a Jewish Mom (Deirdre Anderson), accompanied by Larry’s uncle (Jones again), turns up to kvetch (and perhaps renew her Mrs. Robinson fling with the once high school-aged Mike).
Last to arrive are a trio of elves (Derrick Brooks as Rodney backed by Glasser and Jennifer Nwene as Sandy and Naughty ‘N’ Nice), who explain to our hesitant hero the mission he must accomplish if Christmas is to be saved, one involving a certain Kelly (Hoffert in luscious, leggy dominatrix mode).
I never did quite figure out why Christmas needed to be saved, nor did I get why Larry of all people was chosen for the task, but no matter. Like an extended hour-long Saturday Night Live skit, The Jew Who Saved Christmas! keeps its audience in stitches.
Performances range from underplayed to over-the-top and everywhere in-between, suggesting that a stronger directorial hand than Shultz’s might have kept everyone on the same page, but redheaded beauty Collucci and mop-topped cutie Glasser stand out. Anderson’s Mrs. Epstein may be a tad too unrestrained as the Jewish mom to end all Jewish moms, but she makes up for this in fearlessness, Brooks gives Rodney a refreshing dose of authenticity and honesty, and Hoffert’s Kelly has the fierceness and sex appeal of a young Sigourney Weaver.
Vincent Miller is stage manager. Miller and Kristen Maxie are assistant directors.
Maxie’s sound and lighting design are basic, scenic design is minimal, and numerous scene changes require overlong blackouts.
Still, despite its shortcomings, there are far worse ways to spend an hour than with The Jew That Saved Christmas! You’ll laugh, you’ll be entertained, and darned if you won’t leave Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre with a holiday smile on your face.
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
December 13, 2105
Photos: Andy Shultz, Adam Neubauer, Jennifer Nwene