Entertainment » Theatre

The Jerusalem Syndrome (NYMF)

by Joseph Pisano
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Sep 30, 2008
Two victims of "The Jerusalem Syndrome"
Two victims of "The Jerusalem Syndrome"  

Too often Broadway producers bank on audiences being so awe-struck by sets, costumes, and technology they fail to notice that a musical's book and score are dreadful.

Then, there are musicals like The Jerusalem Syndrome, an ambitious gem enjoying a limited run as part of the 2008 New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF). With garden-variety costumes, no technological legerdemain, and a simple set, "The Jerusalem Syndrome" relies on a witty book and even wittier score to charm its audience.

The musical also benefits from a daringly offbeat subject choice: Jerusalem Syndrome, a psychological disorder that inflicts about 100 tourists to the Holy City each year. Although there are several types of the affliction, the musical is concerned with the most publicized variant, where the delusional sufferer assumes the life of a biblical figure.

"The Jerusalem Syndrome" centers on three American tourists: Phyllis (Liz Larsen), a forlorn professor whose workaholic husband would rather search for a cell phone signal than the Western Wall; Charles (Alan H. Green), a gay businessman who blames the Catholic Church for the pain in his life and has travelled to Israel for revenge; and Eddie (Nick Verina), a bumbling tour guide who feels overwhelmed by his leadership responsibilities. They each undergo a biblical transformation, losing themselves in the personas of Sara, Jesus, and Moses respectively.

As these characters struggle with their psychoses, meeting other Jerusalem Syndrome patients along the way, the musical turns increasingly thoughtful, becoming an exploration of the human as much as the divine.

Hopefully, the heavens will be kind and give "The Jerusalem Syndrome" a life beyond the NYMF.

"The Jerusalem Syndrome" continues its run Thursday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. at 37 ARTS - Theatre C, 450 West 37th St., For tickets, visit www.nymf.org.

Joseph Pisano is a freelance writer living in New York.

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