'Jericho': Small Production with Big Impact
By John Townsend , Special to the Star Tribune
April 22, 2015
Divisions among Jewish Americans flare up in Jack Canfora’s brilliant comedy-drama “Jericho,” at the Highland Park Community Theater, the final offering of Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company’s 20th season.
It’s New York City, four years after Sept. 11, 2001. Beth (Anna Sutheim) lost her husband, Alec, in the Twin Towers attack and now has an easygoing Jewish boyfriend, Ethan (Max Polski). Beth’s father was born in Palestine but she doesn’t identify with his homeland.
Ethan’s brother, Josh (Ryan M. Lindberg), escaped the towers during the collapse. This compelled him to become a firebrand for Zionism. Obsessed with news reports on terrorism and carnage, he sees Jews as constantly under attack. Josh incessantly derides his wife, Jessica (Miriam Schwartz), for her grammar, her preference for television entertainment over news, and mostly for not wanting to move to Israel.
When Ethan brings Beth to Thanksgiving dinner at his mother’s home in Jericho, a Long Island town, Josh rails against Palestine. But it’s not Beth who reacts, it’s Jessica. The dynamic Schwartz is scathing in her attack.
Director Warren C. Bowles’ riveting cast captures the emotional volatility triggered by religious/political bullying. Maggie Bearmon Pistner charms as the brothers’ guilt-tripping mother and Michael Torsch is likable as Beth’s therapist — a man who reminds her of her late husband. Lindbergh and Sutheim give soulful performances that culminate in final poetic passages that movingly cap a powerful work of theater.