nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
August 10, 2007
Onstage the curtains are pulled back to reveal a cluttered backstage. Two doors lie propped on rolled-up rugs and a very large Tupperware container holds a few inches of water. A violinist and cellist play klezmer music. This is the world of A Mikvah. It is non-realistic and non-linear; resembling the anxious thoughts you have when unable to fall asleep. A few established plot points serve to ground us amidst this chaos, namely: Alan (our protagonist) is in his 20s and is gay and single; Alan constantly dreams of his dead, Eastern European émigré grandmother; and Kate, Alan's current best friend, desperately wants a baby. Most significantly, Alan's childhood best friend, Ben, has just died of cancer. Everything is convoluted, chaotic; dialogue overlaps, music underscores, phrases repeat.
And then JTT, Alan's neighbor, walks in and it is a breath of fresh air. He is a funny, endearingly egotistical former child star and we sense there's some chemistry between him and Alan. But Alan sinks deeper into his reminiscing.
According to Wikipedia, mikvah is Hebrew for "a specific type of bath designed for the purpose of ritual washing in Judaism." Alan talks about his grandma's affinity for them, and indeed, Alan is in his own mikvah, only instead of water he has submerged himself in old memories and is allowing himself to wallow.
Brian Rady is sufficiently anxiety-ridden as Alan and Max Jenkins is highly refreshing and entertaining as JTT. The ensemble also includes Jake Cohen as Ben, Jessica Arnold as Alan's "Nana," and Amelia Huckel-Bauer as the ridiculously baby-crazed Kate. Huckel-Bauer also plays the baby-obsessed mothers of Alan, Ben, and JTT.
Playwright and director Jeremy Bloom has done an effective job in conjuring up the muddled, swirling world that is Alan's mind. However, I wish he had gone further with it. The play stagnates where it could plunge deeper and ultimately I left frustrated by its unremitting self-pitying mood.