The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings

A CurtainUp Review
Jonah and Otto
Everything is a narcotic. I love a good wall. There's something sweet about loneliness. I had promises to keep. I failed miserably. Life? It's just one more thing to keep clean. — Otto
Jonah and Otto
Rupert Simonian and Sean Gormley (Davidawa Photography)
A romance between a narcoleptic and an epileptic might seem more of gimmick than the engaging and touching story about male bonding and responding that Jonah and Otto is. That both men are heterosexual, unlikely compatriots and separated by almost forty years in their age adds to our curiosity about them as conflicted individuals and as sparring protagonists in U.K. playwright Robert Holman's testy two-hander.

Snappy writing gives this sentimental story a real lift. So does the excellent acting of London-born Rupert Simonian and Irish Rep. member Sean Gormley, under the fine direction of Geraldine Hughes.

Entering a secluded section of a public garden on England's south coast, Jonah (Rupert Simonian), a twenty-six year old scruffy-looking hustler has been making ends meet doing magic and card tricks up and down the seaside towns. He startles Otto (Sean Gormely) the well-dressed sixty-two year old lapsed clergyman whom he finds sensually caressing the stone wall. Don't'll find out. Otto is just as startled to see that Jonah has with him a sleeping six year-old baby girl in a shopping cart filled their necessities.

Otto's instinct is to be wary of this strangely appealing but moderately hostile stranger who doesn't lose any time demonstrating his ability as a pickpocket. Jonah's behavior and tough talk soon enough reveal that he may be sharing the same desperation to find a reason to live that Otto feels.

So begins a spiky, often confrontational, duologue between the two. Their individual and personal stories become grafted into their common desire to explain and expose their loneliness to each other.

There is a lot of talk about love and all the things that should make life worth living and yet don't for some of us. But all the talking is lively and the revelations are fraught with the unexpected — not the least of which are Jonah's occasional seizures and one of Otto's sudden narcoleptic attacks making him oblivious to the fact that he's been completely undressed by Jonah while sitting upright on a bench. There is an element of allegory introduced as Jonah takes off his own shoddy clothes and sneakers and puts on Otto's suit and shoes.

Holman's characters may seem adrift in their mutual loneliness. But the reward of the play is that we watch them increasingly reflected through each other's sorrows and joys.

Gormley beautifully addresses Otto's mixture of melancholy and geniality ("So what if I am peculiar. I don't care a jot. The point of having no friends is that you also have no enemies"). Simonian is terrific as the mercurial, motor-mouthed and poignantly unsettled Jonah ("I'm ridiculously worried, old man. I'm stony broke, to be honest with you. My pockets are ridiculously empty").

For a while, it seems as if their dispiriting but never boring discourse about girlfriends, parents, school, sex, marriage and religion is more than we need to know, but it moves toward a gracefully affable resolve. Otto may talk to a crumbling wall (bravo to Ann Beyersdofer's evocative setting) and Jonah may hear birds in his head, but listening to their hearts is rewarding.

Despite Holman's more than fifty years as a highly regarded dramatist in the U.K., he has not had similar recognition in the United States. His precisely honed prose suggests shades of both Samuel Beckett and also early Edward Albee which adds to this play's pleasures.

Search CurtainUp in the box below Back to Curtainup Main Page

Jonah and Otto by Robert Holman
Directed by Geraldine Hughes
Cast: Sean Gormely (Otto), Rupert Simonian (Jonah)
Set: Ann Beyersdorfer
Sound: Ian Wehrle
Costume Design: Katie Sue Nicklos
Stage Manager: Kat West
Assistant Director: Taylor Thomson
associate Producer: Natlaia Duncan Macker
Production Manager: Charlie Whelton
Magic Consultant: Evan Gambardella
Set Production Management: alfa Productions
Produced by ; Steven Klein & Nick Micozzi
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes no intermission

Lost Tribe Theatre and Firefly Theater & Films at The Lion Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd Street.
Tuesdays through Fridays at 8pm, with matinees Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 3pm.
From 02/01/17 Opened 02/08/17 Ends 02/25/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 02/04/17

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Jonah and Otto
  • I disagree with the review of Jonah and Otto
  • The review made me eager to see Jonah and Otto
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted at to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter

©Copyright 2017, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from