Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

'The Bloodless Jungle,' Written By Peter Lawson Jones, Leaves Much to be Desired at Ensemble Theatre

Posted By on Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 6:40 AM

  • Courtesy Ensemble Theatre

The theory behind Ensemble Theatre’s THEATRECLE season, which features plays different from their main stage series, is to give Cleveland artists the opportunity to “play” around. And that’s a great idea, as long as those artists are willing to take risks and really play with the form.

In the first offering of the CLE Season, we have The Bloodless Joungle written by Cleveland political and arts luminary Peter Lawson Jones. By bringing his insider knowledge of how politics is plays, Jones script has the advantage of verisimilitude. But it doesn’t expand the form or take enough chances to really be considered either “play” or play.

Ethan St. John is an Ohio state senator who is talked into running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. From the first moment and throughout the play, every character makes it clear that St. John is really a saint, with virtually no character flaws. There’s the first problem for this play, since no one actually believes there are people like that. And if there are, then half the population probably hates them because of their policies and beliefs. Welcome to politics circa 2016.

Playwright Jones just ignores the current context and proceeds with the story of how St. John’s best pal from high school is causing problems because of his conviction for rape. That’s certainly a nasty piece of business, but the script never deals with it in a compelling manner.

Instead, we have extended scenes between St. John (a far too tame Robert Hunter) and his wife (Eva Rodriguez), discussing her traumatic past, and seemingly extraneous moments between St. John and his football buddy from college, Cyrus, who’s now his (of course) kick-ass campaign manager.

If director Terrence Spivey has talked with Jones about the length and meandering thrust of his play, it doesn’t show in this production. Eventually, we get tired of everyone buffing St. John’s ego knob till it glows and yearn for some real ball crushing political insider stuff. As the hard-nosed pol H. Henderson Hill, Greg White delivers some of that vibe, but far too little as it turns out. The one character who actually stands out is the aide to St. John, Malik, played by an animated and interesting Anthony Lanier.

Sometimes, the title of a play inadvertently captures its essence. And that is the case here, in a play that seems drained of its blood, and guts, in exchange for soft soap and pablum.

The Bloodless Jungle
Through October 2 at Ensemble Theatre, 2843 Washington Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-2930.

Tags: , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 1, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation