Playing at Theatre Row until February 25, Jonah And Otto is the acclaimed play from Robert Holman. The play takes place on a summer’s night in the UK, where the eccentric Otto, 62, encounters the brash Jonah, 26. Both men are lonely, lost, and develop one of the most gut-wrenchingly honest friendships to hit the stage.
Jonah And Otto relies on the two C’s to thrive as a 90 minute theatre experience: characters and conversation. I cannot really say that there is a set storyline beyond two men that meet each other and push and pull the other ‘s “sentimental buttons” to reveal their innermost desires/emotional secrets. These are two men that, socially, would be deemed weird. Otto loves to rub himself against brick walls, and proudly proclaims his loneliness along with tales of the many women he loved but did not approach. Jonah has a quick-witted, razor sharp tongue that can obliterate another human being’s existence with one cut. He, like Otto, can be emotionally volatile, but manifests its through sporadic rage fits and, unfortunately, seizures. Throughout the play, as the men contemplate love, death, God, and their own personal goodness, you grow closer to them because they are two human beings that cannot hide their heartaches even if they tried. Jonah is carrying his 6 week old baby in a shopping cart, waiting to get the money and mind to meet his girlfriend, Emily, in Paris. While Otto is devastatingly lonely and cannot stop recalling how gullible or weak he is when trying to make his own happiness. The immediacy of how these men open up to each other, from fighting with the other to coyly declaring their love for each other, will attract audiences to Jonah And Otto’s emotional honesty.
We all are lonely, and desire a moment where we could go up to someone, air out all our inner baggage, and not fear they they would rebuke or hurt us. Jonah And Otto build that type of bond under the starry light design of Kate Bashore and the simple brick, wood, and twig set of Anna Beyersdorfer. You get the feeling that these two men have found each other’s spirit in a broken Church/ back-lot, which matches, in many ways, the energy of these two characters; they want love from the world and God, but feel they are undeserving of it. Director Geraldine Hughes did an excellent job of assuring that the audience always feel the darkness or dimming light of both these men and their surroundings. They are eager to feel connected to someone or something, and leads Rupert Simonian, as Jonah, and Sean Gormley, as Otto, do well to make that eagerness feel natural for the audience. Although, in the play, Jonah and Otto are meeting for the first time, they interact with an ease and fastness that makes it seem as if they have known each other forever. With lesser actors, the depth and intensity of their conversations could come off forced, but Gormley and Simonian do well to show that effortlessness stems from their hardships with others. Both actors never take away the desperation and even malice these characters can have at poking at the other’s flaws, but also reveal it to be a coping mechanism for having faults that are easily seen.
It is rough to live in a world where you cannot hide what is deemed “wrong” with you, while trying to figure out what is right. Hence, I cannot reiterate enough the character/acting bond between Rupert Simonian and Sean Gormley. They oddly complete each other, and flesh out the virtues Holman wished to cover through his playwriting. Jonah And Otto is a play that promotes honesty and vulnerability as the strongest counters to loneliness and self-destruction. For More Information On Jonah And Otto Click Here.
Jonah And Otto wil be playing at Theatre Row until February 25, which is located on 410 W 42nd Street.