The East End in London is where immigrants come when they seek refuge in England. It teems with foreign languages and exotic smells and fashions that are both ethnic and eclectic. It’s a melting pot, sure — but it’s one that often boils over with people who don’t want to sit down at the same table.
For generations, Jews from all over Europe settled here and formed stable neighborhoods. Then came newer immigrants from Africa, from India, from predominately Muslim countries. Inevitable culture clashes ensued.
In Dough, Nate Dayan (Welsh veteran actor Jonathan Pryce), a recent widower, goes to work before dawn every morning in the kosher bakery that his father founded nearly a century ago and named Dayan and Son. Lately, old age is catching up with Nate — he’s burning the bagels and dropping tray loads of croissants, and even his loyal customers are complaining that the cupcakes aren’t as tasty as they used to be. He needs an apprentice.
Nate allows himself to be talked into hiring the son of his cleaning lady, a recent escapee from the terrible wars in Darfur. Teenage Ayyash (Jamaican-Barbadian newcomer Jerome Holder) wants the position, not for any love of pastry, but so he can hold a cover job while he makes more money working for the local drug dealer.
A devout Jew, Nate is shocked to discover Ayyash saying his morning prayers to Allah in the bakery’s storage room. It didn’t occur to Nate that Ayyash might be a Muslim. He just thought he was an African, whatever that means, and now he has a real-live Muslim working in his shop. Oy vey.
To his surprise, Ayyash begins to channel his inner baker. He carefully braids egg dough to make beautiful big loaves of challah. He dollops just the right amount of apricot jam into cream-cheese mixtures to make terrific rugelach cookies. The mountain peaks on his macaroons are browned to perfection.
One day, feeling inspired, Ayyash empties an entire baggie of marijuana into the enormous metal dough blender. The resultant pastries, though definitely not kosher, are a big hit. Nate’s clueless elderly customers love the odd-tasting goodies that make them giggle for hours. Soon also, there’s a rush of new customers, millennials, who form a line around the block to buy brownies.
But it’s not all peachy. Neighbor and new widow Joanna (Pauline Collins, famous for Shirley Valentine) is so frisky that Nate is afraid to be alone with her. One greedy villian promises to put Nate out of business; another threatens to send him to jail for the rest of his life when the marijuana-laced goodies are discovered. Let’s not forget the drug dealer, or the cops, or Nate’s horrified lawyer son or Ayyash’s poor worried mother. Can the old Jew wearing his yarmulke and the young Muslim in his prayer cap resolve ancient suspicions that separate them and find success together?
Of course they can — this is a movie! English-Austrian director John Goldschmidt and his two writers have put together a tale that, while utterly predictable, is also simply delicious. Despite a string of troubles that would make lesser heroes turn on one another, Dough’s odd couple realizes they are in the same foxhole, no matter what name they give to God. The actors are so good and having such a fun time, they convince the audience of what they’ve come to know — all good things come to men who bake together.
Dough, Tryon Theatre, 45 S Trade Street, Tryon. Monday and Tuesday, July 11 & 12, 7pm. 828-859-6811. www.tryontheatre.com.