Personal Tragedy

Dealing With Personal Tragedy in Jericho

Walking into the NJ Repertory Company in Long Branch, I cannot say that I knew what to expect or how I would feel about their latest production, “Jericho,” by Jack Canfora.

The theater is small, quaint, and certainly “homey.” With just six rows of seats, you could practically touch the stage and see the actors’ mouths clearly speak such powerful and eloquent words.

“Jericho” is about a group of people desperately trying to find their way in the world, and meaning to their lives.

One woman named Beth (Corey Tazmania) is battling the confusion and depression of loosing her husband in 9/11. The morning of the attacks she asked for a divorce, not knowing those would be her last words to the man Beth once loved.

She is now popping an abundance of pills, seeing a therapist regularly who she confuses for her late husband, and trying to date again.  However, all she is able to think and speak about is her husband. Beth holds an immensely large amount of guilt and cannot seem to move on with her life in all complexities of living.

Ethan (Andrew Rein) is Beth’s new lover, although not much love or passion has been given to him. He is bombarded with the psychological confusions of Beth, and longs to pursue a meaningful relationship with this mysterious woman who has captivated him.

For Jessica (Carol Todd) and Josh (Jim Shankman), a Jewish couple, their life is far more complicated than it seems. Josh is a survivor of the 9/11 attacks and has become a strict practicing Jewish man who has turned the lives of his loved ones upside down. He believes the Jewish community including his wife, his brother Ethan, and mother Rachel (Kathleen Goldpaugh) are slacking in their religious duties. 

He believes they should be in a complete depression over the war between the Palestinians and Israelis. Jessica wants a divorce and can no longer be treated as a child, being disciplined from the man who once made her laugh and feel like the smartest person in the world.

Lastly, Rachel, Josh and Ethan’s mother, is hosting a dysfunctional Kosher Thanksgiving dinner. In attendance are Josh and Jessica, who spend more time with the wine bottle than conversing. Ethan brings his new girlfriend Beth who is not only withdrawing from her medication, but sees her husband at the dinner table through crazed hallucinations.

After watching “Jericho” and viewing the collaboration and chemistry between the actors, it’s tough not to say this production by director Evan Bergman is beautifully executed.  All the actors from Tazmania to Goldpaugh were so personable and convincing.

In each family, there is dysfunction, marriages fall apart, depression takes over lives, and yet somehow we as people are expected to continue on with our “normal” daily lives. Canfora’s play could not have more defined the truth in human behavior.

The emotional journeys displayed in “Jericho” were completely captivating by sharing a common thread that we as citizens have felt, the pain of 9/11 and how it changed us. This is the story of people trying to find their way after that horrific day.

Each word, each step, and each story in “Jericho” was painfully moving and truly awing.

In the play, Jericho is a town in Long Island where Josh and Ethan grew up and where their mother resides. Jericho may just represent a hometown, but in depth, it means home, family, and where these boys grew up and became their own person. The artistic approach was simplistic, yet rich in detail and words.

As for Jessica Park’s set design, the stage was a compiled disaster of chairs upside down, things and objects hanging from the ceiling, ruble, and something resembling an episode of “Hoarders.” Each chair, and upside down table, represented the mess of life and dysfunctional attitude for these people

My expectations for “Jericho” were not only fulfilled, but exceeded. Having attended a Q&A after the preview performance, this gave an inside look into the thought-process behind this creation.

The actors and Bergman all agreed that this is not one story, but a tale of pain coming from multiple people, sharing the painful thread of tragedy and disappointment. It could be the love of a mother, a wife, or a new boyfriend, but sometimes love is not enough to shadow the pain we feel inside.

“Jericho” is the reality of life and the battles found within us. Love and peace, hello and goodbye, brings the play to a conclusion with one holy word…shalom. All in all, this is exactly what “Jericho” is all about. Check it out!

This production of “Jericho” runs until November 13 at the NJ Repertory Company in Long Branch. Tickets for students cost $25.

For more information, call 732-229-3166.