Theatre Jacksonville’s Handle with Care

Theatre Jacksonville opened its final show of 2013 with Jason Odell Williams romantic comedy Handle With Care. This is the North Florida premier of this play and in fact the New York Off Broadway opening is in previews right now for a December 15th debut. Tony Award Winner Carol Lawrence (from West Side Story) is the featured actress for the NYC opening.

The play is set in an older motel room, clean, but with dated furnishings and a steam radiator, in Goodview, Virginia, a suburb of Roanoke. The opening scene has a young Jewish Israeli woman, Ayelet, who speaks almost no English, in a conversation with a DHL delivery man, Terrence about a lot box containing the dead body of her grandmother, Edna. Of course, they do not have a meeting of the minds since neither can communicate. Terrance calls up his longtime best friend Josh, who happens to be Jewish, for help to talk with this confused girl, but unfortunately when Josh arrives the only two words he can recall for his childhood Hebrew lessons are ‘Shalom’ and ‘Manischewitz.’ Josh and Ayelet use sign language, hand gestures, and a Hebrew/English dictionary to somewhat communicate. Meanwhile, Terrance has been convinced to call the police to find the truck that has the coffin with Edna’s body, due to be shipped back to Israel.

As the first scene ends, as an audience two questions came to mind. What were Ayelet and Edna doing in America? How did Edna die?

Now we have already established that our visitors do not speak English, so it is somewhat of a shock when we see Edna and Ayelet arrive at this motel the day before in a flashback scene and they are speaking English. Well, of course, if they spoke Hebrew a great portion of the audience would not have been able to understand the storyline. We just pretended we had one of those new voice activated tablets that could translate instantly from Hebrew to English. We learned from grandma Edna that she has planned this trip with her granddaughter to help her get over a recent romantic breakup in Israel. Ah, but later, we learn the secret reason for the trip to America, and specifically the State of Virginia.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.