Minnesota Jewish Theatre's 'Jericho' is Fueled by Tragedy, but Lifts Heart
By Renee Valois
Special to the Pioneer Press
The walls that surrounded Jericho came tumbling down in ancient Jewish and Christian texts, but other things crumble in Jack Canfora's "Jericho" from Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company. The first major fall happened before the play begins in 2005: the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, which dramatically impacts the lives of everyone in the play.
But the show is not merely another rehash of the 9/11 disaster. It's more about how we cope with tragedy in our lives and how things may never be the same afterward -- and yet we continue on. That sounds grim, but Canfora has included plenty of sharp one-liners in his script to make us laugh in the midst of the turmoil -- and director Warren C. Bowles has assembled a fine cast that ably jumps between drama and humor.
Relationships also crash in this play -- largely fueled by guilt. Here's where Canfora occasionally stumbles into soap-opera territory. Does Beth really have to tell her husband she's leaving him the night before 9/11, when he leaves early to go to work and dies?
Anna Sutheim makes us like and believe in Beth, who sees a female therapist, but actually sees and hears only her husband whenever she looks at Dr. Kim. Michael Torsch does a fine job of portraying both the doctor and the husband Beth sees and talks to in delusions that she recognizes aren't real.
Beth has finally started dating a man, Ethan (Max Pol ski), who brings her to Thanksgiving with his family at the house where he and his brother grew up in Jericho, N.
Ethan's brother Josh (Ryan M. Lindberg) -- obviously named like Joshua at the battle of Jericho -- and his wife, Jessica (Miriam Schwartz), are on the verge of divorce because Josh escaped the Tower on 9/11 (more guilt) and has embraced a stringent practice of Judaism as a result, criticizing everyone and everything for not following his path.
Beth's family background also causes a bit of an uproar, and the matriarch, Rachel (Maggie Bearmon Pistner), has plans for her children that don't sit well.
Sparks fly. In fact, we're on the verge of a bonfire.
Fine acting and directing and a clever set by Michael Hoover make for a worthy production -- as do wry lines, such as when Jessica rebukes her husband for an "oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or Fox News."
"Jericho" is all about the ways in which relationships and people may fall down, but the production itself is always on solid ground.