What is our personal responsibility to others in the face of repression and abuse? Do you interfere in someone else’s life when you see injustice? To act or to collude in silence… and while we argue about the need for action, what’s happening to those suffering right behind our backs?
Mikveh, playing now through June 5 in its English language world premiere at Theater J, is not really a play about religion, though it takes place in the confines of an orthodox community in Israel. Rather, it’s a play about the moral battle between action and inaction. It also highlights how women’s territorial natures cripple them – as they police themselves from within, they are being policed by others from without. Their inability to rise above petty jealousies can be detrimental, sometimes to the extreme.
Though the action centers around the mikveh itself (a ritual bath, here used mainly to purify post-menstruant women), you don’t need a background in the Talmud or Family Purity Laws to understand the play. That’s what I love about Theater J, no matter the subject, there’s a dedication to clarity and consistent storytelling, always marked by strong ensemble acting and high production values. Mikveh is no exception – though at times the play veers dangerously close to a Jewish Orthodox version of The Women (the gossipy babymachine, the uppercrust bitch, the abused wife, etc.) – it’s worth it to explore these issues with such powerful actors. They are ably helmed by director Shirley Serotsky, whose handling of Hadar Galron’s engaging script mines the truth behind stereotypes.