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February 7, 2019 8:20 am

New Play by Jewish Author Tackles the Environment and Sexual Harrasment

avatar by Alan Zeitlin

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Anapurna Sriram, Christian Conn and Johnny Wu in ‘Whirlwind.’ Photo: Monique Carboni.

Calling a woman a “bird Nazi” isn’t usually the best way for a man to win an attractive woman. In the play Whirlwind, now at the Wild Project on 195 East 3rd Street, a wildlife advocate named Michael uses this term against Beth. She works for Arrow Energy, whose turbines are causing the death of birds, and she wants him to stop making problems. He wants to go the press and expose the company.

“These days a lot of people are throwing around the word Nazi, and it’s a little absurd,” playwright Jordan Jaffe said.

The Harlem resident was inspired to write the play due to his sister and other family members who work in the energy field. He also wanted to deal with the subject of sexual harassment.

In the play, Beth’s boss Cooper asks her out, and when he is rejected, he later implies he may have to fire her. He also becomes jealous when he learns that Beth has gone to dinner with Michael.

As Beth, Anapurna Sriram, who you might recognize from Showtime’s Billions, is startlingly good. She is masterful as a beautiful woman who is wanted by two men and wants to keep her job without sacrificing her morals.

As Cooper, Johnny Wu has the corporate machismo of a man who thinks he should be able to get whatever he wants. Wu, who has appeared on Kevin Can Wait and 24, also uses his physicality to show both his power and desperation, even eating from the floor while he is tied up. Christian Conn as Michael is solid as a nebbish; when he has a romantic scene with Siriam, it’s hard to avoid laughing.

Much of the dialogue is in the style of Seinfeld, and Jaffe describes his humor as “very Jewish.”

Whirlwind is a timely, poignant, and hilarious play that will make you laugh, but also make you think about difficult and weighty questions.

The last scene is a bit too extreme, but the play pushes far enough without being preachy or demonizing a position.

But will the play make people care more about protecting the environment, or make people act more appropriately in the workplace?

“I’m not sure,” Jaffe said. “But I hope the audience can laugh a little at the funny parts and take the other parts seriously.”

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