By Philip Dorian
Jericho, Jack Canfora’s play that premiered at New Jersey Repertory Co. in October 2011, is enjoying a first-rate New York City off-Broadway production at 59E59 Theater. Directed again by Evan Bergman, Jericho also features two of the original six actors. The play about guilt and grief in the aftermath of 9/11 is set against marital discord and toxic relationships in a dysfunctional family.
For its world premiere production in Long Branch, the play was honored with an Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award, which NJ Rep producer Gabor Barabas credits with providing the “boost” that elevated Jericho to New York City worthiness.
Launched nationally in 2007, the Edgerton Foundation provides grants ranging from $5,000 to $75,000 to “worthy American plays” for extended rehearsal time, resulting in more polished performances of more tightly edited scripts. To date, 150 new American plays have benefited from the program, including Tony-nominated Curtains and Next To Normal, which went on to win the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
Nonprofit theaters with a “strong and consistent track record of producing new work” are invited to submit plays for consideration. The Edgerton Foundation includes New Jersey Rep in that category and, in fact, has similarly awarded another play, Butler, by Richard Strand, which will have its world premiere in Long Branch next spring.
In Jericho, a 9/11 widow is coping with issues that go beyond the loss of her husband. She’s unable to commit to new beau Ethan (Andrew Rein, from the New Jersey cast), and Thanksgiving dinner with his family in Jericho, Long Island is disrupted by the discord between Ethan’s brother, Josh, and his wife Jessica, played by Carol Todd, who originated that role at NJ Rep.
Todd plays the unhappy Jessica with a ton of passion. In the aftermath of the turbulent Thanksgiving dinner, during which the walls of this Jericho family come tumbling down, Jessica, who’s been guzzling wine, explodes in a raving scene. Todd, playing against tipsiness (as drinkers do), strips Jessica emotionally bare. It’s a blistering performance, and reason enough to visit Jericho.
Through Nov. 3 at 59E59 Theater, 59 East 59th St., NYC. Performances are: 7:15 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 8:15 p.m. Fridays; 2:15 and 7:15 p.m. Saturdays; and 3:15 and 7:15 p.m. Sundays. Tickets (a modest $35): 212-279-4200 and at www.ticketcentral.com.