9/11--The Book of Job
nytheatre.com review by Matt Freeman
August 15, 2004
9/11—The Book of Job is a messy, passionate and precarious piece. Daniel Ashkenasi, the playwright and director, clearly wrote it in the fit of confusion and anger that followed the World Trade Center attack. The tone poem that resulted is loose on structure, but awash with biblical and apocalyptic language. The promised “courtroom” is actually a bare stage of performers, singing and speaking with conviction.
For a New Yorker who was present during the eponymous event, the piece never quite coalesces. Using Job as an everyman American is at best conceptually bold, at worst lacking in much perspective. Considering the amount of suffering and death in Africa or the Middle East, the idea that God somehow was cruel and unknowable for allowing the Towers to fall strikes me as a bit egocentric and, frankly, uniquely American mythology. There is also a dizzying misrepresentation of Job here, even as wonderfully sung and enacted by Joel Briel. Job seems too earnest, too clean, and simply unhappy: a far cry from the biblical Job who was cruelly tortured and viciously abused by his own God. Job’s wife, again sung beautifully by Jamie Matthews, seems uncharacteristically and wholly supportive: a non-entity who generically offers encouragement and harmony.
That being said, there were and are plenty of us deservedly enraged and terrified by the event, and that collective voice cries out here in music and dance. The songs, some of them oddly “popular,” some quite beautiful, ponder at almost everything: commercialism, religious bigotry, warmongering, the quest for meaning, swelling nationalism and a grasp for resolution. Flawed as it may be, with its solid cast and poetic tone (all of the text was taken either from an unspecified version of the Bible or the news media), 9/11—The Book of Job is a truthful artifact of Ashkenasi’s turmoil and our national post 9/11 pathos.