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Capital Fringe Review: ‘Jonah Dove’ by JR Russ

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FOUR STARS
Jonah Dove is a show roughly based on the Biblical Jonah story. Written by Jason Ford, it tells the tale of a man who has run away from his family and his past. But he ends up helping his niece, trapped in the same, small town he escaped from himself.

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The space is a bit challenging for scenes where characters are sitting down, as the audience is almost all sitting level with the stage itself, give or take a foot or so. This becomes less of an issue as the play progresses. The only other challenges are transitions between scenes, as well as the occasional but not consistent choice to keep characters whom are not actively in the scene on stage.

But otherwise Director Ben Fisler does a good job bringing the script to life with a well-balanced cast. Dean Davis plays the title character with an innocent stubbornness, one that got him out of his trailer park town but unfortunately also makes him think he’s got everything figured out. Tanya Davis is assigned double duty playing opposite him as close friend and sister, Laurie and Tammy, two characters she does a great job distinguishing from each other. Tim Torre plays Jonah’s trailer park, brother-in-law and might come off a bit as a caricature at first, but as the play develops you realize it’s comes from a deep, emotional place in the character and his history with Jonah.

Melissa Robinson and Justine Cerruto really shine as Sonya and Angela, respectively, especially when playing opposite each other. Angela is Jonah’s niece whom he’s trying to rescue from the trailer park, while Sonya is Laurie’s mother, an upperclass, Washingtonian socialite. And therein lies the rub, and the main issue with the script. It plays on socioeconomic and class stereotypes that unfortunately oversimplifies them rather than explores their complexities.

That being said, there are enough other elements in the story and the interchange between characters to warrant seeing this show. Jonah’s sporadic questioning about God are addressed by another character. Even his persistent advice for his niece to change the way she presents herself, is resolved in a way that at least begins to counteract previously stated assumptions about class. In fact, the piece ultimately reminds us that while we as audience members might see the judgment and stereotypes across socioeconomic lines as just that, we can probably think of and see many examples in society where others accept such things as truth and fact.

Running Time: 90 minutes.

Jonah Dove runs through July 27, 2013th, 2013 at the Goethe Insitut – Gallery, 812 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC. For performance times and to purchase tickets, visit the show’s Capital Fringe Page.

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