"The Last Schwartz"

(left to right) Ken Clement, Kim Ostrenko, Candace Caplin, Betsy Graver and Matt Stabile. (Justin Namon / February 13, 2014)

“The Last Schwartz” is the best kind of mix.

Engrossingly staged by Parade Productions at Boca Raton’s Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, the play by Deborah Zoe Laufer accomplishes much in 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. It’s bittersweet and hysterically funny.

Early on, the story settles on a Jewish family gathered at their ancestral home in upstate New York to observe the Yahrzheit on the first anniversary of their patriarch’s death. The sterling cast sails along with the witty, passive-aggressive pingpong of squabbling.

But that’s not what the play, which debuted at now-shuttered Florida Stage in Manalapan in 2003, is really about. Think of “The Last Schwartz” as the other side of “Fiddler on the Roof,” or as a saucy satire about the price of assimilation. Here, traditions and cultural identity are withered by icy wit.


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The catalyst that sends the action into third gear is a clueless girlfriend, a shiksa model who dive-bombs into the emotional minefield with dizzy-giggly oblivion. And that’s when “The Last Schwartz” begins its trajectory into unexpected spheres. The comedy spirals upward and outward before a reveal in the second act zooms everything down to a dark place where no light can penetrate.

But is it a drama polka-dotted with comedy? Or a comedy gently laced over a drama?

Yes.

“The Last Schwartz” is running through Feb. 23 at the Studio Theatre in the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, 201 Plaza Real, in Boca Raton. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with 3 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $35. Call 866-811-4111 or go to ParadeProductions.org.