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'J.B.': Between Heaven and Hell

Cappies Review

Wealthy banker J.B. has everything — until two circus vendors decide to play with his life, slowly destroying everything he holds dear. That's the premise of "J.B.," the vivid surreal drama by Archibald MacLeish, accented with Fairfax High School's whimsical and highly artistic view.

At odds in the grounds of an empty circus are Nickles and Mr. Zuss (Brittney Lewis and Zach Goubeaux), two vendors who take on the masks of God and Satan in order to explore the meaning of human suffering by retelling the Biblical book of Job. Their unfortunate Job, banker J.B. (Josiah Case), will not waver in his faith, turning what was just a bet between Nickles and Zuss into an all-out battle for J.B.'s ultimate reaction.

Lewis sparkled as the acidic Nickles, ranging from blazing fury to smoldering contemplation. She lit up the stage with her powerful presence, never dropping the tension of her character for a moment. Each of her caterwauling rants was countered and balanced with the inexhaustible patience and fervor of Goubeaux's controlled, pragmatic Zuss. The two carried the difficult show with boundless enthusiasm.

Their earthly counterparts J.B. and his wife Sarah (Joanna Gibson) matched the deities' talent. Josiah Case's J.B. was easily believable, and his character development through tragedy after tragedy was superb. Gibson was intense in each scene, no matter how small, as her character suffered blow after blow.

Fairfax's aesthetic elements are in a world of their own, this show featuring two immense, brilliantly detailed towers for Nickles and Zuss to survey the action from, designed by Grace Royer. The stage crew was also held in an artistic aspect, composed of circus acrobats and players who seamlessly integrated gymnastic performance (choreographed by Alice Riley-Ryan) with set shifts.

With a script as complex and abstruse as this, it was certainly a challenge to keep the show moving, and save for a few static moments, the cast kept the audience engaged. The actors also had the challenge of several long speeches, with repartee at a minimum, so some cues were not picked up immediately, but not significantly.

"J.B." presented a challenge for both audience and cast with its weighty message and lyrical script, but thanks to the immense talent of the F/X players, it was a glorious burden to bear.