Night air is collected in jars. Ruhl's interweaving of the stories is quite remarkable. Ingalls Costume Design: Gabriel Berry Sound Design: Cecil Averett Projections: Ruppert Bohle Dramaturge: Tanya Palmer Fight Direction: Nick Sandys Dialect Coach: Linda Gates Assistant Director: Scott Illingworth Assistant Stage Manager: T. Problem: the act is set in 1969 and Reagan was President from 1981-89 and he ran for re-election in 1984. Photo Source: Carol Rosegg Let's just get the superlatives out of the way. But these moments still came off to me as unfocused and, frankly, wasted opportunities.
I would argue that this is because the Virgin character and the Christ character never display an ordered relationship. Not Ruhl, whose In the Next Room: or, The Vibrator Play--as likeable as it is--plays as a coy sex comedy where men are just silly asses out of touch with their feelings. The play had its debut at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in May 2016 and then with the Shattered Globe Theatre at Theater Wit in Chicago in May 2017, starring Ruhl's mother Kathleen Ruhl. Everyone who sees this play will see something different, but no one will walk away unaffected. The cycle, together, explores the relationships between faith and politics, authenticity and theatricality, and community and political icons. This is the most outwardly political play Ruhl has written. The cycle is humorous and haunting, tender and tragic, comedic and carnivalesque.
But perhaps the most important question we are initiated into in her cycle is the question she puts in her notes to the cycle. I could spend several days talking about the various layers of the play, but perhaps one theme to consider first is the character of the Virgin Mary. In each, a historic political leader appears, God-like, to lay down political articles of faith. You and Sarah Ruhl were a magical combo. In many Renaissance period pieces of art where the Virgin Mother is depicted holding the Christ Child, the Child touches the face of the Virgn—which is a symbol of sexual love. But Wing-Davey shines in directing the fine cast.
However, the play veers too much into whimsy at times life-size fish appear in every act and are quite tedious by the last , making it hard to swallow in one night. But the predictably oppositional perspective is toothless—those Nazis were so intolerant of homosexuals, and was President Reagan flaky or what? Adding to the similarity are the bare-bones design and production values--tastefully minimalist and perhaps budgetarily required, but still barely changing from one act to the next. Ruhl dramatizes a community of players rehearsing their annual staging of the Easter Passion in three different eras: 1575 northern England, just before Queen Elizabeth outlaws the ritual; 1934 Oberammergua, Bavaria, as Hitler is rising to power; and Spearfish, South Dakota, from the time of Vietnam through Reagan's presidency. And while we do get the gospel-like themes of betrayal and martyrdom in each of the stories, the direct parallels with the Passion are always left for us to figure out. However, after she studied under Paula Vogel at Brown University A. Taking place over three time periods of stifling political rule, the play explores unwanted pregnancy, homosexuality and war, among other ideas. I cannot say enough good things about this show and everyone connected with it.
Currently in production at the Goodman, Passion Play portrays three communities and their passion plays: the first in 1575 northern England; the second in 1934 Oberammergau, Germany; the third beginning in 1969 South Dakota. The economy for vibrators, even then, was vast; I mean, it was a million-dollar enterprise. Betrayal, Martyrdom, Spirit vs Flesh, etc. Because you never see them—you just talk to them. The play explores the history of the vibrator, developed for use as a treatment for women diagnosed with hysteria. Following his acclaimed full-scale productions of the play at the Goodman Theatre and Yale Repertory Theatre, director Mark Wing-Davey has inventively reimagined his staging to accommodate the site-specific nature of this engagement.
Normally, if someone yells fire in a theater you should get out. We see the villagers as zealots living out their beliefs through the Passion Play. The final play in the cycle ends up in the Badlands of South Dakota where a famous Passion Play still runs every year to this day, where Ronald Reagan gives an opening speech. This production works because so many people are doing their jobs so well. We have more than enough of politicians, producers and celebrities. Originally, Ruhl intended to be a poet. Hitler makes an appearance and comments on the goings-on.
The young actors clearly deserve an A+ for energy, enthusiasm, and sheer guts for bringing this marathon to us. Like his Elizabethan counterpart John, Eric burns with the need to believe in something; he finds it in Hitler, who comes to Oberammergau to give his blessing to the production. The dramas are set against the politics of the times in which the characters live—turbulent eras when leaders exploited religion to embody moral as well as temporal authority. Sarah Ruhl: A Critical Study of the Plays, McFarland, 2011, , p. Pontius is in love with Mary, the pretty lass cast as the Virgin Mother, though she has an eye for John, who looks damn good in a loincloth. All three are set on the backdrop of political upheaval.
Interesting look at the intersection of religion and life, as the characters try to embody the roles they play while struggling with the questions of humanity. It is their loss, but to be fair, this is a difficult play, brimming with complex material that takes time to digest. Act one sets the tone of complex and, at times, uneven presentations of multiple themes. That may be accomplished through alternative direction, or some rewriting may be necessary. Need the actress playing the Virgin Mary actually be a virgin? A fascinating examination of how actors are affected by their holy roles, the play illuminates how politics influences religion. Will it always be a self-fulfilling prophecy? Below: Jenee Garretson, my sweet, sassy, fiercely organized and absolutely tireless dresser. And where else can you see faked immaculate conceptions, dead fish parades, a gay Jesus, and tyrannical ruler walk-ons on one stage in a single night? Ruhl reincarnates sixteen characters and our collective consciousness through three different time periods and locations of war in history.
The closer Passion Play gets to our time, the farther removed it feels. Her nonlinear form of realism—full of astonishments, surprises, and mysteries—is low on exposition and psychology. I applied and took off elaborate makeup 9 times per show, including having to take two quick showers. It almost makes your head explode. The second act leaps to Germany in 1934, where the young man playing Christ is slowly drawn towards the Nazi party. But while her introductory program notes are full of requisite Bush-bashing, her play constantly sidesteps the nitty gritty of her stories' political implications.