Review by Tulis McCall
24 Feb 2010
This play will take your breath away. The way a flash fire might take your breath away. I had to fight an urge to hit the ground and slowly crawl out of the theatre keeping well below the wall of smoke that I could swear was filling up the place.
Instead I just sat very, very still and waited for it all to be over.
Talk about a swell idea gone to Hell in a handbag. Check this one out: Andrés González (Ami Dayan) a priest in 15th century Spain, falls in love with a Jewish woman. In doing so he recalls his own heritage. He was born Jewish, and, after his parents were killed prior to the formal dates of the Inquisition, he was befriended by Juan de Salamanco (Kevin Hart) a priest who was also born a Jew. González followed the same path, converted and became a priest. When he meets Isabel (Catharine Pilafas), he is overwhelmed with both questions and desire. Ultimately he chooses to marry Isabel. He hires her as his housekeeper and they secretly live as husband and wife. When Isabel becomes pregnant he sends her away to have her child. After their son is born González confesses to de Salamanco, who betrays him. González is arrested and burned at the stake.
This is one of those – “Of course that must have happened, and more than once! Why didn’t I know that?” It’s a terrific tale. But in the hands of this team of adapters this story has every ounce of life beaten out of it until there is nothing left but stringy threads of tissue. I’m not even clear who is responsible as the playwright is listed as Oren Neeman and the adapters are Ami Dayan and Mark J. Williams. Who touched the ball last? Who knows?
In words of one syllable – there is no action. The entire play is exposition. Characters talk and talk and talk about what they did, saw, felt. FEH! The heart of a play is always action. The kind you watch, not the kind you hear about.
With the exception of a handful of weensy moments of intimacy between Isabel and González that are little more than a Spill and Spell Jar of clichés, nothing happens. Nothing. In fact, the premise of the play is the contemporary attempted theft of the trial manuscript (a 15th century document that is tossed about as a textbook might be, and is not handled with white gloves.... hellooo?) by a descendant of González. As part of the interrogation the museum director begins to read the manuscript out loud while we are magically transported to 15th century Spain.
Except that there is no magic and we never leave our seats.
No, that is not quite right. One woman did leave. About 15 minutes into the play, when most of us had realized what we were in for, one audience member clomped down the stairs and walked across the downstage edge of the set (the only exit path available in this small theatre) and out the door.
The entire audience watched her with admiration and envy.
Enjoy the 90 minutes I just saved you.