Beth is a funny, delightful half-Palestinian, half-Irish Catholic thirtysomething who also happens to see her dead husband everywhere she goes.
Alec died in the World Trade Center in 9/11, and even four years later, his ghost follows her around and even appears as her 47-year-old female Korean therapist.
In Jack Canfora’s Jericho viewers get a stark look at what Beth lost in 9/11 with a play that’s peppered with just enough real-world humor and true-to-life dialog to keep the crisp comedic drama accessible. The production is part of National New Plays Network that kicked of at New Jersey Repertory Theater in October 2011.
Beth, marvelously played by Eleanor Handley, is suffering a large volume of “the Ben & Jerry’s of guilt” as she tries to make other connections with people, including her new boyfriend, the quite normal Ethan, a Jew from Jericho, a Rhode Island hamlet.
The complexity of Jericho grows as we’re introduced to Ethan’s dysfunctional family, as his brother, Josh, has his own luggage of guilt having escaped from the second tower. Josh’s wife, Jessica, searches for the cause of Josh’s sudden “ass-holier than thou” attitude as he plans a move to Israel to break free from what he considers an un-caring, overly optimistic American culture and to reconnect with his true “community” among the Jews.
Take all that drama and set it around the Thanksgiving table, throw in a ghostly guest appearance by Alec, a few extra bottles of wine and the brothers’ stereotypical Jewish mother, and the play hits notes that everyone can relate to.
The women among the accomplished cast—including Handley, a hilariously tortured Rachel Moulton as Jessica and the on-point Diane Ciesla as the mother, Rachel—surpass the men’s performances in director Kate Alexander’s version of “Jericho.”
Will Little, as the dashingly supernatural Alec, Michael Satow as the every-guy Ethan and Mark Light-Orr as Josh deliver competent performances. But the women simply outshine them, thanks, in part, simply to better dialogue that gets the audience to full, show-stopping laughter.
As secrets are revealed from Beth and Josh, both performances become richer and the two make an unexpected connection they were both seeking. Although the core subject matter is heavy, the audience is sent away feeling uplifted, cared for and, indeed, optimistic.
Jericho plays at Florida Studio Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota through June 9. $32-$34.