I beseech you to check out Florida Studio Theatre‘s Jericho, which takes you on a simultaneously hilarious and thought-provoking journey through the landmines of our post-9/11 world. I’m always a bit hesitant to tread back into that territory because I was working in downtown Manhattan that fateful day. But I was also very interested to see how playwright Jack Canfora would deal with the issues, particularly relating to how we heal after such a tragedy, in his new play, part of a rolling world premiere (FST’s was the last production of three).
The play opens with Beth’s therapy session as she discusses her life following the death of her husband Alec in World Trade Center’s second tower. Her therapist is played by Will Little (Nabo in Asolo Rep’s Las Meninas), but in a brilliant twist we learn that Beth is seeing visions of her husband Alec and that her therapist is actually a middle-aged Asian woman. Beth is tormented by the loss of her husband but even more so by her own inability to connect with anything or anyone. She’s taking a cocktail of prescription drugs and is seeing her life through a lucite haze. She has recently begun dating a nice Jewish mensch named Ethan who wants her to visit his family for Thanksgiving, and she is very hesitant to dive in to this new relationship. Ethan manages to charm her into foregoing her usual trip to Alec’s family’s house and heading to Jericho, Ethan’s hometown, for the holiday.
We think that the biggest issue at Thanksgiving will be whether Beth is ready to meet the family; but we soon meet Ethan’s religious brother Josh, a 9/11 survivor who made it out of the second tower. He and his wife Jessica have settled into a give-and-take that at first seems harmless (is the remote really a stand-in for a penis?) and ultimately grows hostile. Jessica is Jewish too, but not nearly religious enough for Josh; and she has no interest in moving to Israel as he does. She loves “Access Hollywood” and sarcasm, and she has a delicious wit. He loves praying and watching news of bombings so he can stay ever vigilant.
Throw in one stereotypical concerned Jewish mother who wants to move to Florida, and cue the awkward Thanksgiving dinner. Not to mention the fact that, in true “guess who’s coming to dinner” style, Beth is half-Palestinian. Although this may sound like a recipe for a slapstick, cloyingly sentimental tale, in fact Canfora takes the road less traveled. We are forced to consider why Americans must always soldier on and be cheerful in the face of tragedy. Shouldn’t we examine what 9/11 really means for our country and whether in its wake we have become a more divisive and world-weary people? Did we all lose a part of ourselves that day, and can we transcend the tragedy and find a place of peace?
I hope this play finds its way to an off-Broadway and/or Broadway stage. I spoke with Canfora, and he stated that funds are being raised to do just that. New Yorkers have moved on, but they have not forgotten. This play may be just the healing needed for that corner of the world and for the rest of us as well.
- Jericho runs through June 9. For tickets go to http://www.floridastudiotheatre.org/. Check back tomorrow for TWIS Contributor Anthony Paull‘s interview with Jack Canfora.