A look at the varied Off-Broadway offerings playing on stages around town
By Doug Strassler
Jack Canfora’s Jericho straddles two distinct styles of theatre. It belongs to that ever-growing sub-genre known as the “9/11 play,” consisting of works that deal, usually directly, with the events of that horrible day. It’s also a Thanksgiving play, which forces family members with dueling agendas to clamber under the same roof to eat, drink, and be caustic. In this case, brothers Ethan (Andrew Rein) and Josh (Noel Joseph Allain) flock to the Long Island home of their mother, (the great Jill Eikenberry), with their significant others in tow: Josh’s estranged wife Jessica (Carol Todd, who played in the show’s original New Jersey Rep run) and Beth (Eleanor Handley). Beth is still haunted by her late husband (Kevin Isola), who died in the Twin Towers; Josh, meanwhile, escaped, and now wants to divorce his wife and move to Israel. Director Evan Bergman navigates the sometimes crude dialogue and convenient plot turns to add a humane element atop Canfora’s manipulative set-up, and elicits particularly knowing performances from both Handley and Todd.
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street. www.59e59.org
Just Right Just Now is the latest anthology of scenes offered by Lesser America, in what is rapidly becoming the very loyal home of Theatre for the New City. Offering a sextet of mini-works from Clare Barron, Eric Dufault, Anna Kerrigan, Lauren Morelli, Marco Ramirez, and Brian Watkins, topics range from closeted homosexuality to necrophilia to body awareness. Staged by directors in Peter James Cook and Stella Powell-Jones, these diverse entries share the location of a basement setting (JRJN runs on TNC’s downstairs stage). Eric Clem and Alex Herrald prove to be the evening’s MVPs, embracing a variety of awkward and creepily idiosyncratic characters. Jon Bass, Lauren Blumenfeld, Laura Ramadei and Shayna Small all add nice touches, as does the resourcefully atmospheric lighting design from Eric Southern and Barbara Samuels. While my favorite of these six original plays involved a surprising connection that forms between a cockroach and a rat, there’s clearly something in this show for anyone not afraid not stare at life’s darker side – just like Lesser America itself.
Just Right Just Now
155 1st Ave New York, NY 10003, www.theaterforthenewcity.net
The Medicine Showdown
An update on Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, Adam Koplan and Topher Payne’s The Medicine Showdown, currently running at the 4th Street Theatre, shifts the deadly scourge affecting a popular Scandinavian spa town to the Deep South of the early 1900s. Devoted and widowed doctor Claudia Hill (Susan Louise O’Connor) in Norwich, Georgia, has identified an outbreak of the Spanish fly, but her attempts to contain an outbreak get plenty of pushback from local movers and shakers who fear the toll any such move will take on the town’s livelihood, including Dr. Arthur Eggerton (Jay Rhoderick), whose roadshow – the titular “Medicine Show” – breaks up the dramatic action of the play with a series of clever and wholly entertaining song-and-dance numbers. Showdown, a Flying Carpter Theatre Company production directed by Jessi D. Hill, is full of such tongue-in-cheek amusements while at the same escalating to a polarizing argument about whether or not to shut down the “Miracle Medicine Show,” which could breed disease as well as false propaganda. Handsomely staged, with costumes by Moria Sine Clinton and set design from James Aitken, Showdown benefits most from Khalid Hill’s choreography and the stalwart performance of the empathic O’Connor.
The Medicine Showdown
At the E. 4th Street Theatre, http://flyingcarpettheatre.com/repertoire/the-medicine-showdown/
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