Now that streaming theatrical events has necessarily—for now—become all the rage, New Normal Rep (Jack Canfora, Artistic Director and Sally Kilingenstein-Martell, Executive Director) is offering Canfora’s Jericho in a moving, beautifully balanced online version. (All of NNR’s presentations this season will be streamed.)
Jericho has a great deal going for it. It is directed by Marsha Mason and features Jill Eikenberry. These two formidable theater artists’ participation promises quality which is evident from the first scene on to the quietly scathing denouement. Jericho also has proven itself in a run in 2013 at the 59E59 Theaters. Its intimate, six character scale lends itself to the close-ups of streaming which Mason deftly juggles with a combination of in-your-face emotion and wit.
Jericho uses the 9/11 catastrophe as a catalyst for the emotional turmoil felt by all but one of its characters. That one, played with subtly wise humor by C.K. Allen, is a figment in the mind of Beth (a superb Eleanor Handley) whose husband, Alec died in the fall of the Two Towers. Beth not only sees and speaks with Alec but also superimposes him on her middle-aged, Korean therapist, giving Allen juicy material to act. His eyes alone make him worth watching as he makes numerous appearances as a phantom Alec and the real Dr. Kim.
Beth is dating Ethan (Michael Satow, low-keyed, but moving), but isn’t terribly sure of their relationship’s durability. Even so, she accepts an invitation to join him at his mother’s house for Thanksgiving. This mother, Rachel, is portrayed as a combination Jewish mother and warrior by Eikenberry who is forced to sit at her Thanksgiving feast while reluctantly gorging on the battles of four adults. She watches as her dreams blow up in her face.
Josh, Ethan’s brother (a radiant Jason O’Connell playing self-delusion with frightening sincerity) is chowing down on his own fantasy: moving to Israel to reaffirm his Jewish identity, something his wife, Jessica (Carol Todd, gut-wrenchingly powerful) fails to comprehend. In fact, her only fantasy is a knock-down-drag-out divorce from her misled, self-centered husband.
Why the idea of aliyah is so attractive to Josh is revealed by the end as are the innermost secrets of each character, full-fledged, but dramatically flawed humans whose frailties and anguish are revealed in Canfora’s incisive words.
Jericho is both depressing and uplifting. Watching it is witnessing Canfora put all these on-edge characters in confrontations that seem unavoidable.
Emotional explosions are inevitable.
NNR plans to stream plays by Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz, Julia Blauvelt and Nikkole Salter in the next few months.
Jericho (March 4 – April 4, 2021)
Requests for streaming: http://www.NewNormalRep.org
Running time: two hours and 15 minutes including one intermission