The Mikvah Project

Josh Azouz
Orange Tree Theatre / Lockdown Theatre Festival
Radio 4 and BBC Sounds

The Mikvah Project Credit: Richard Davenport / The Other Richard
The Mikvah Project Credit: Richard Davenport / The Other Richard
The Mikvah Project Credit: Richard Davenport / The Other Richard

The course of true love never did run smooth. In Josh Azouz’s ambivalent play The Mikvah Project, the emotion experienced by the characters may be confused infatuation rather than true love, but the path is still rocky.

Avi (Alex Waldmann) is 35 years old and married. He regularly takes part in the Mikvah, the Jewish rite of purification involving being submerged in water, not for religious reasons but as a kind of deal with God to ensure he is fertile enough to impregnate his wife. Eitan (Josh Zaré) is 17 years old and, driven by his raging teenage hormones, uses most social situations (college, raves, places of worship) as the opportunity to ogle girls. Yet Eitan seems confused about his sexuality or perhaps simply obsessed by Avi as, after a chance meeting at The Mikvah, he begins pursuing the older man. Avi seems to share the attraction but is more cautious, being aware of possible consequences.

Photographs suggest much has been lost in the transition of The Mikvah Project from stage to radio including the elaborate stage set involving working plunge pools. The voiceovers, used to set the scene for the radio production, may, however, have worked just as well on stage to explain the shifts in time and place.

The Mikvah Project works best as a study of two confused and conflicted characters forced to consider their true desires. Neither character is especially admirable, and the ambivalent approach taken by author Josh Azouz means we can never be sure how far they can be trusted. The relationship revolves around one character determined to indulge his passions while the other is constantly considering the consequences—for himself if not his potential lover.

Josh Zaré’s Eitan is impulsive, which is fair enough for a teenager, but also brutally selfish. He pursues his intended lover with a single-mindedness worthy of a stalker. When Avi seems reluctant, Eitan tries to force him into the relationship by harassing him physically in public and, without Avi’s prior consent, booking them into a holiday together. Yet Eitan is a complex character and one could argue he is compelled into taking rash action by the sheer strength of his feelings.

Alex Waldmann’s Avi is very much aware of the age difference between him and Eitan but, rather than seeming more mature, is calculating. Throughout the play, Avi is constantly assessing his options; being attracted to Eitan but anxious to avoid scandal. Avi seems prepared to relinquish passion if it means he can maintain his socially-acceptable lifestyle.

Although the subject matter might be dark, Josh Azouz’s script is far from dour. Characters are pushed by the extreme situations into some bizarre conversations including Avi’s efforts to reason with Eitan resulting in them becoming diverted into a debate about Warhammer figures.

Although neither of the characters is especially appealing, the complexity of their relationship makes it well worth spending an hour in their company.

Reviewer: David Cunningham