When the lights come up on the B Street Theatre's "Handle With Care," we see an agitated young woman speaking in a language that others in the play – and most people in the audience -- can’t quite understand… contemporary Hebrew.
The scene is a cheap hotel in rural Virginia. The young woman is upset because her grandmother has just died unexpectedly, and the vehicle containing her remains has been stolen. A late December blizzard is underway. And yes, this is all a set-up for a love story.
A young man who is nominally Jewish steps in to help translate. When the agitated woman realizes people are trying to help her, she extends an invitation.
But her attempt to say "stay and eat with me" omits the crucial preposition, prompting big laughs from the audience.
Soon it becomes clear that the young woman from Israel, and the nominally Jewish guy from rural Virginia, are attracted to each other, despite their awkward situation. She quizzes him about his faith. His answers trigger more laughs from the audience.
Local actress Stephanie Altholz – who delivers most of her lines in Hebrew and studied the language for this role – and visiting Broadway veteran Tyler Pierce do a bit of theater magic to flesh out this longshot love story into a believable encounter. They gradually move from awkward efforts at simple communication into a growing realization that they’ve found a partner in life – even though they weren’t really looking.
Director Lyndsay Burch, who is quietly building a nice portfolio of credits at the B Street, adds flourishes throughout. The show is not a dramatic blockbuster, but “Handle With Care” is a heartwarming little romantic comedy – and it’s also a pleasantly unexpected Christmas season play about love and redemption involving Jewish characters.
Handle With Care continues at the B Street Theatre through Jan. 3.
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