- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 19, 2002

Sometimes laughter is the only way to deal with serious issues. That's the approach of

Joshua Ford's play "Miklat" (the Hebrew word for "shelter"), his world premiere of a comedy about the struggle of a nonobservant Jewish couple to reconnect with a newly religious son. It is directed by Nick Olcott at Theater J.

The opening scene has cast members walking in circles trying to make sense of their faith. Translating the practices of an ancient religion into modern society is an apparent tension.

As the show progresses, conflict arises when Howard and Judy Kleinman (Jack Kyrieleison and Caren Anton) travel to Jerusalem to bring their son, Marc (Eric Sutton), home from a college semester abroad during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Marc's parents wanted him to travel to Israel to learn more about his heritage. When they arrive in the country and have to don gas masks, they wish he would have stayed home, especially when they learn of his recent conversion to Orthodox Judaism and agreement to an arranged marriage.

While Marc loves the Torah, his parents are less devoted. This causes conflict for Marc as he searches to "honor" his mother and father the way the Scripture commands.

Howard acknowledges that he doubts whether God even exists, but Judy wishes she could have more faith and devotion, like her son. The couple often makes reference to their lesbian daughter and her place in the Jewish tradition. Marc's fiancee, Sarah (Rahaleh Nassri), likes to discuss her past sins and how her recent conversion to Orthodoxy has changed her for the better.

Marc's friend, referred to as Yeshiva Boy (Grady Weatherford), tries keeping the Orthodox traditions for a while but eventually confesses that he is "into being Jewish, but the volume is turned up too high" at the Yeshiva, the institute of formal religious study that he and Marc had attended.

Stav Golani (Michael Kramer) and the "Voice of Israel" broadcaster (Charlie Varon) continually serve as comic relief as the larger issues unravel. Stav tries to capture Marc in a body bag so that Howard can take him back to the United States, but Stav kidnaps the wrong person. The broadcaster periodically makes light of the situation at hand, such as when he suggests putting decorations on gas masks for children who are hesitant to wear them.

Even the non-Jewish audience members should be able to relate to one of these characters. The struggles are not limited to those in the Jewish community.


***

What: "Miklat"

Where: Theater J, D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW

When: Varying dates through Feb. 3

Tickets: $18 to $30

Phone: (800) 494-TIXSMAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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