After its world premiere at the New Jersey Repertory Theater, award-winning “Jericho,” is being presented by Florida Studio Theatre as part of the Sarasota Festival of New Plays and the National New Play Network’s “rolling world premiere,” designed to stimulate the continued restaging of new writers.
Jack Canfora’s third play is a thought-provoking, witty and pertinent comedic drama that focuses on the emotional repercussions of 9/11 as represented by two of the event’s survivors. The comedic drama takes place in 2005 and is characterized by extremely deft dialogue, snappy repartee and a joke-laced sense of sad irony, as the characters reflect their disparate stages of getting on with their lives in the wake of great tragedy.
Under Associate Director Kate Alexander’s direction, the production is taut, emotionally involving and frequently punctuated by laughter. Some of the more blatant examples of jokes include, “It’s an oxymoron — like jumbo shrimp or Fox News,” and “Access Hollywood is the moral equivalent of sodomizing kittens.”
The story begins with its main character, Beth (Eleanor Handley), in a therapy session with her psychiatrist, Dr. Kim, ostensibly a 47-year-old Korean-American woman, but represented on stage and in Beth’s mind as her dead husband, Alec, who was killed Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center. Played by Will Little, Alec’s ghost turns up throughout the play and carries on an imaginary discussion with Beth.
Beth, who is half Irish Catholic and who’s father was born in Palestine, is dating Ethan (Michael Satow), but is unable to consummate the relationship due to her continued feeling of guilt over the sudden loss of her marriage.
The bulk of the action takes place at a Thanksgiving dinner in the New York suburb of Jericho, a real town as well as a biblical reference. Jericho is the home of Ethan’s Jewish mother, Rachel, played by Diane Ciesla, who effectively navigates the stereotype.
Other dinner guests include Josh, (Mark Light-Orr) Ethan’s brother, and Josh’s wife, Jessica (Rachel Moulton). Josh was in one of the towers on 9/11, but managed to escape. He is wracked by guilt from the experience, which has caused him to become disenchanted with ordinary pleasures in life, as if he still can taste the ashes in his mouth. A confrontation occurs when Josh announces his intention to move to Israel, and we witness some fine ensemble acting.
IF YOU GO
“Jericho” runs through June 9, in the Keating Theatre at Florida Studio Theatre. Tickets are $32 to $34. Call 366-9000.