The Citiblog

Review: Is Jonah a Whale of a Tale?
February 2, 2024, 2:15.50 am ET

Photo: Joan Marcus

By Brian Scott Lipton

Coming of age tales are among the theatrical landscape’s most frequently told stories, even as each one takes a different tack on this familiar subject. That’s undeniably true of Rachel Bonds’ intriguing “Jonah,” now premiering at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre. The play spans a decade or so in the life of Ana – magnificently played by the rising superstar Gabby Beans, who never leaves the stage for a second of this 100-minute piece and never lets our attention drift from her.

But the play, exquisitely acted by a four-person cast and sharply directed by Dayna Taymor, is also likely to leave many audiences scratching their heads when its over, with a long list of questions to be asked – and possibly answered – while you tale the subway home to Brooklyn or the Metro North to Westchester.

Not the least of these – if perhaps the most perplexing – is why Bonds chose to call the play “Jonah,” when the character of that name, a gawky high school student endearingly played by Hagan Oliveras, is only on stage for less than a third of the play. True, Jonah is Ana’s “first love” – we meet the pair while they are in high school where Jonah eventually talks his way into Ana’s all-girls dorm and, eventually, her heart. (The play takes place in three separate bedrooms, all identical and rather oddly designed by Wilson Chin to resemble enormous, sparsely decorated hotel rooms). Continue reading...