Jonah Dove, which takes its cue from the biblical Book of Jonah, was presumably intended to examine the emotional turmoil of one complicated man – the eponymous Jonah Dove – as he rescues his niece from a life of abject poverty, reconciles himself with his sister, and grows to accept not only the existence, but the omnipotence, of God.
Instead, a group of one-dimensional characters assembled, demonized the poor, and bemoaned the secularization of education for ninety minutes, then suddenly (and for no discernable reason) all made friends and abruptly ended their bitter disputes.
Jonah Dove is stiffly written, apart from the occasional giggle-worthy witticism, usually a barb aimed at the very rich or the very poor, though occasionally meant to rail against those meddling kids.
The script practically falls over itself in its eagerness to remind the audience that people who live in trailer parks are inherently evil, that the only thing standing between single mothers and drug addiction is prayer, and that God belongs in school essays.
During one of the several, occasionally nonsensical plot twists, Jonah tells the coast guard officer who is arresting him that, in Jonah’s Navy days, “we knew when not to treat innocents like criminals!” Bizarre phrasing aside, the moment drips with presumably unintentional irony, considering the show’s treatment of people from low-income neighborhoods.
by Jason Ford
at Goethe Institut
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The actors did their best to work with the hand they were dealt by the script, to varying degrees of success. Melissa B. Robinson, in particular, managed to be both funny and human, introducing some much-needed nuance to her role as Sonya, the out-of-touch, elitist mother of Jonah’s friend Laurie (Tanya Davis, who also played trailer park resident Tammy). Justine Cerruto performed admirably as Angela, the smart and sassy high school student determined to to get out of the trailer park and away from her mother (Jonah’s sister), Tammy, and stepfather, Denny (Tim Torre).
Unfortunately, any good work done by the actors, or by director Ben Fisler, is overshadowed by the massive moral judgment the script visits on the poor. By characterizing poor people as lazy extortionists taking “the shortest route from the unemployment line to the welfare line,” Jonah Dove strips them of their dignity, which leaves a bad taste in the mouth.