The Mikvah Project (Orange Tree)

Eitan is 17. Avi is 35.

Eitan loves Arsenal. Avi loves his wife. Eitan goes to college. Avi is trying for a child.

They are in completely different places in their lives. Yet, every Friday, Eitan and Avi meet at the Mikvah to take part in the Jewish ritual of submerging in the water.

As they chat about life in the synagogue, football, the nature of marriage and desire, they form an unexpected bond that threatens to disrupt life outside the Mikvah.

A play about the courage it takes to confront our hidden desires. Filled with singing and water, chutzpah and joy we are reminded how easily a heart can break.

From Josh Azouz, the writer of smash hit Buggy Baby and Victoria’s Knickers.

The Mikvah Project was chosen as one of a handful of productions curtailed by Coronavirus to be picked to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as part of Bertie Carvel's 'Theatre Lockdown' project in June 2020.

★★★★  Time Out, Alice Saville: 'Achingly intimate remounting of Josh Azouz’s drama about two men drawn to each other at a Jewish bath'

'Josh Zaré plays 17-year-old Eitan. He’s still a kid, really, and Zaré has this incredible energy that makes him visibly fizz with excitement as he mimes driving his first car, or drifts into confused monologues about the girls he’s meant to fancy. Avi doesn't have time to help him work things out, because he’s married and trying for a kid. In theory. Alex Waldmann captures the contradictions of this man who always knows the right thing to say, the right thing to do, but can’t make himself stay within those lines he’s drawn out so neatly. [...] Azouz’s play doesn’t soar into queer wish fulfilment fantasies: there’s an incredibly tense pattern of release, denial, release which makes it impossible to look away.'

★★★ Broadway World, Aliya Al-Hassan:

'Josh Azouz's play The Mikvah Project was a great success when it formed part of the Orange Tree's Directors' Festival last summer. It now returns in excellent form to explore the tentative and problematic relationship between two male characters in the setting of North London Judaism. [...] With two new actors in the roles, Josh Zaré is wonderfully convincing as 17-year-old Eitan. He is incredibly likable, with a familiar façade of confidence masking insecurities as he rides a wave of teenage hormones. The audience is reminded of the unbearable intensity and absolute absorption of a teenage crush through Zaré's performance. It is brilliantly expressed and sometimes hard to watch. [...] As Avi, Alex Waldmann expresses the internal conflict of a character who is clearly in love with his wife, but challenged by his unexpected feelings for Eitan. Waldmann is very adept at identifying with Eitan's teenage desires and lack of control of his body and mind, while trying to confirm his own place in the world. [...] This intense and tender two-hander is an immersive exploration of when real human feelings and desires clash with reality. It is very fine production that feels sincere, authentic and honest.'

★★★ The Times, Dominic Maxwell, 'enjoyable and rewarding love story':

'This is a wonderful little show as far as it goes. Waldmann is hugely sympathetic as the restrained yet conflicted Avi, here to cleanse himself, yet unable to be entirely honest with himself. Zaré gives Eitan a perfect bumptious energy: a young man transgressing in beatific surroundings, later risking a scene in the synagogue and making threats. [...] They will stick in the memory, this pair of men who veer between narrating their stories to the audience and talking to each other with a fascinating mix of the guarded and the intimate. Even at only 65 minutes, though, and even with an ending that stings as it should, The Mikvah Project still ends up feeling slight. It’s enjoyable and rewarding, but also a short story, a rewarding slice of a play, rather than something that feels sturdy enough to build a whole evening round.'

★★★ Financial Times:
'Clumsy man-to-man conversations about girlfriends and fertility give way to even clumsier man-to-man contact in a moment that sends a gasp around the auditorium. Azouz handles the ensuing longing, confusion and uncertainty beautifully, shifting from playful comedy to raw and painful emotion. The actors chat to the audience, hand them props, comment on their own predicaments and scold themselves: “Stop talking in the third person; talk to him,” says Zaré’s Eitan to himself at one point. The two handle this skilfully. Zaré is achingly believable as a teenage youth: gangly as a clothes horse, packed with springy energy, he’s funny, touchingly vulnerable and woundingly aggressive. Waldmann, meanwhile, expertly suggests a man struggling to stay in control, his tight body language revealing the warring feelings within him. At one point, standing completely still, back to the audience, he manages to convey the conflicting waves of desire and fear rolling through him. The drama overplays its hand in places: the pair’s trip to Alicante, while fun, doesn’t ring true. But this is a poignant, thoughtful little piece about belief, identity and healing, delivered with a beguilingly light touch.'

 

★★★ The Stage David Fargnoli, 'Heartfelt exploration of submerged desire':

'As Avi, Alex Waldmann gives a compellingly nuanced performance, cringing every time he makes himself look uncool in front of his younger friend, his desperate desire to father a child adding an uncomfortably paternal edge to their interactions. Meanwhile, Josh Zaré plays Eitan with a recognisably irreconcilable mix of adolescent awkwardness and swaggering teenage overconfidence.'


 

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Photograph: Richard Davenport/ The Other Richard

Alex Waldmann
Josh Zare
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