by Jack Canfora
Directed by Kate Alexander
Florida Studio TheatreÕs Keating Mainstage
1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, 941-366-9000
April 6 through June 9, 2012

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

In Jack CanforaÕs  National New Play Network rolling world premiere, Jericho refers to the biblical place where Òwalls came tumbling downÓ (used metaphorically here) and to a Long Island town where occurs the playÕs central event. ItÕs a Thanksgiving Dinner in 2005 that BethÕs beau Ethan has invited her to share with family.  BethÕs been trying to deal with her husband AlecÕs death in the Towers on 9/11 by taking meds and seeing a therapist. WeÕve seen the latter Asian woman often ÒbecomeÓ Alec (but played effectively by Will Little, an African-American). He speaks to Beth in the doctorÕs office as well as when the relationship with Ethan gets down to sex fulfillment Òin a little more timeÓ and later.  

On Thanksgiving, the would-be lovers, at EthanÕs family home, get entangled with his brother Josh and what turns out to be the break-up of his marriage to Jessica. Since emerging live from the Towers, Josh, guilt-ridden, has become obsessed with being Jewish. As a Zionist, in fact, heÕs determined to go to Israel where live the only people he can connect with. The disconnect with his pretty Jewish wife, Jessica, whom heÕs been driving to drink, comes out forcefully.  HeÕd expected her to move without being consulted, but is he disappointed or relieved when she rebels over going? ItÕs not a propitious time for mother Rachel to declare sheÕs going to join her sister in a Florida condo. She wants to leave the Jericho homestead to Josh and Jessica for raising a family, something she thinks EthanÕs unlikely to do. And what a stir is created for Josh, who thinks Ethan might be serious about Beth, when itÕs revealed her father was Palestinian. Beth may have been unattached either to Islam or her motherÕs Irish Catholicism, but to Josh, all thatÕs personal is political. (Mark Light-OrrÕs harsh Josh is not only unbending but never likeable.)

Though everyone turns out to be adversely affected by 9/11, some are so indirectly through their connection with Josh or with Beth. These two suffer most from survivorsÕ guilt. (Eleanor HandleyÕs suffering Beth wins sympathy especially in her appeals and explanations to us.) Most of the humorÑand there is plenty, including some zingy one liners---comes from Diane CieslaÕs Rachel. She is the Woody Allen stereotype of a Jewish mother, laying guilt on her children, yet generous. Ciesla makes us like Rachel, perhaps because she is caring and not completely unwise. Of all the women characters IÕve seen getting stage-drunk this season, Rachel MoultonÕs realistic Jessica is the most justified. Too bad she hadnÕt married Michael SatowÕs engaging and quite balanced Ethan, we might think.

Director Kate Alexander has wisely turned to full-circle-directly-addressing us for an ending that seems written rather than natural. Her blocking of the many scenes in styles from direct address and postmodern illusionism to realism lets the many scenes flow naturally. All but the dinner party happen off-center, but that event is actually as well as metaphorically central. Good! Fine tech work may be credited to scenic designer Bob Phillips, costumer Sara J. Hinkley, and lighting designer Bryon Winn. Production Stage Manager for the 1 hour, 45 minute play is Kelli Karen.

The National New Play Network is of theaters who agree to premiere a new play one after the other in their different locations. NNPN attempts to give a play full productions and thus exposure and life after its initial opening.

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