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Jacob's House Review: Aaron Riccio, That Sounds Cool

Saturday, May 8, 2010 Leave a Comment

(Photo: Justin Hoch @ jhoch.com. Pictured: Matthew Archambault)
A mixed but fascinating review of Jacob's House is up from Aaron Riccio at That Sounds Cool. Readers of this blog know that Aaron is one of my favorite reviewers, so I take his criticisms seriously. Read the whole thing here.

First, the good stuff: I'm thrilled that Isaiah Tanenbaum's and Matthew Archambault's performances are singled out for praise, and gratified that Aaron connected with the chess/death scene of the second act.

Now, the bad: the thought of Tamar being a creation of shreds and patches is unsettling for me, as I deeply care for and connect with her journey. To me, her word play and comic energy are simply weapons she uses to achieve her beloved father's blessing; and her deepening relationship to Dinah is one of my favorite subtle arcs of the play. But I will live with Aaron's critique of her a little longer - sometimes my attachment to the characters as they exist in my body can blind me to the weakness of their execution on stage.

But the most unsettling is this phrase: "and it's certainly better than nothing, especially for the actors who are given a chance to showcase their skills." From the moment we began this unusual process, this question was always with me - is it better to risk this play, whatever it will be, or give up the field entirely? The question is especially piercing, because it involves the energy of so many other people than myself. And maybe it would have been better to give up the field and done nothing.

And this simple question has a trap door within it, that I think all of us as artists feel deeply - does our work mean enough to the world to merit doing, or would we be better off serving life a different way?

Because I love life, am grateful for every unlikely second of it, and I want to give back as much beauty and meaning as I can. And so I'm always asking myself if there is a better way to do so than writing plays, which, if the world's uncertain response to date is any judge, may not be the right gift.

Because it's not (as Aaron speculates) the children of Jacob that I connect with most - it is Jacob himself, who says:
"I’ve been hungry that way, and not just for food. I’ve been hungry for a lot of things, not knowing if I would ever be full. And then some things in you starve and die, and other things just keep starving and can’t die. And so I think there’s no such thing as right or wrong, there’s just hungry or full. I want to be full, you know?"
Other things just keep starving and can't die - the longing to have my plays matter to life is such a thing in me, a starving that can't die. And so even as I wonder about other paths to meaning, that hunger says don't let go.

Something too much of this...read the whole thing here, then get your tickets, and after you've seen the show, please share your thoughts here.