But thanks to a force of urban nature named Sarah
Jones, that perception could shift. Jones' new onewoman,
15-character show, which opened
Thursday at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre, is
called Bridge & Tunnel (* * * ½ out of four). And
it's every bit as fresh and forward-thinking as it was
when Jones delivered it to downtown crowds
during an acclaimed off-Broadway run in 2004.
Jones' multicultural monologues — delivered by
male and female immigrants of various ages and
races who gather in a Queens cafe to recite their
own poems — fit firmly in the context of a world
after 9/11, with Jones wearing her heart and social
conscience on her sleeve. From Muhammed, the
sweetly goofy Pakistani accountant who hosts the
event, to Mrs. Ling, a soft-spoken Chinese matron
who becomes an unlikely advocate for gay rights,
her expertly realized characters have clearly
struggled and sacrificed.
Bridge has been amended only slightly, and the
original material seems as topical as it did two
years back, if not more so. The plight of a Mexican
union organizer crippled in a labor accident is
especially poignant after the tragic deaths of coal
miners earlier this month. And the panicked
cellphone calls that Muhammed fields from his
wife, who is concerned that he's under federal
investigation, have added resonance in light of the
controversy over wiretapping by the National
The weight of these questions, and the
earnestness that Jones applies in considering
them, is balanced by her often irreverent but
always good-natured humor. Rashid, a fledgling
rapper from Brooklyn, tells the immigrants, "I can
relate as a black man, even though I was born
here. 'Cause it's like, aight, see, black people ...
we got imported. Y'all get deported."
Lorraine Levine, an arthritic Jewish grandmother,
feels a similar kinship with the others. "I'm happy to
be here tonight appearing alongside Moslems!"
she enthuses, later adding, more soberly, "When
my family came here — from Eastern Europe —
they were saying the same thing about us
immigrants that they say about you now. ...
Nobody wanted you around."
Certainly, the world could use more of the wit, warmth and profound
empathy that Jones' Bridge is built on.