I was raised in a Long Island household not dissimilar in dysfunction to the family depicted in the moving and powerful play ‘Jericho’ – showing now through June 9, 2012, at Florida Studio Theatre.
The use of guilt as a prime motivator, the importance of wit and cleverness as a means to avoid true emotions, the emphasis of intellect over feeling – if these seem familiar to you, maybe you are a relative of mine…or of the playwright Jack Canfora. Since these ‘coping’ ways of living do not offer much real emotional sustenance, it is no wonder than when a tragedy of epic proportions – 9/11 – strikes, the characters in the play are blown out of their ‘comfort’ zones and into a ground zero of unfamiliar territory.
The two main protagonists – Beth, who lost her husband to the collapse of the Twin Towers and Josh, who survived the devastation but perhaps at the cost of his soul –manage very differently. Beth is in therapy to try to ‘move on' (although she still talks to the ghost of her husband and feels her middle-aged, Middle-Eastern therapist looks like him). Josh embraces Conservative Judaism as a way to cope. He believes the only way he can continue to live is through exodus – he wants to move to Israel to escape the “mindless American optimism” and a lifestyle so false that he feels it makes a mockery of all he, and others, suffer.
Despite the solemn subject matter the play, much like my family (and perhaps yours), has a great deal of humor and some very funny lines. In fact was moved to tears and to laughter during the performance.
I left the theatre pondering the play’s themes of guilt vs. faith, lifestyle vs. activism, tears vs. laughter. These motifs are addressed in this thought-provoking work of art – and they are also topics vital to artists today.
Are we busy living our lifestyles instead of creating? How do we employ our art to address the larger community while satisfying our inner vision? How do we (or should we) depict the personal struggle as universal?
AnythingArts.com, what do you think?