May 6, 2017

in Plays

Play (2015)
by Carol Ann Duffy

Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Apollinaire Theater
Chelsea Theater Works, Chelsea, MA
April 7 – May 6, 2017

With Armando Rivera (Everyman), Ann Carpenter (God), Julee Antonellis (Death), Charlotte Kinder (Fellowship/Worldly Goods/Sister), Mariela Lopez-Ponce (Fellowship/Worldly Goods/Mother), Evelyn Holley (Fellowship/Father); Chelsea Evered (Fellowship/Everyboy), Emily Edstrom (Fellowship/Worldly Goods), Micaela Kluver (Fellowship/Worldly Goods), Dale J. Young (Knowledge)

Cast of 'Everyman'

Cast of “Everyman”
Photo: Courtesy of Apollinaire Theater

An energetic production of a contemporary morality play influenced by those of the old style with some new idioms and some new philosophy.

God (Ann Carpenter) appears here, as a cleaning lady, and Death (Julee Antonellis) a tough-talking lesbian, and Everyman (Armando Rivera) is a guy who gets drunk celebrating his fortieth birthday. A chorus of supporters and muses flurry around Everyman while he considers, in the face of God’s judgment and Death’s wrath, how to approach things.

It’s hard to believe that a morality play almost in the medieval style might appear on a contemporary stage in a form that is not all that different in some ways from its classical antecedents. But here it is, with some new added twists. Everyman wants to urinate off the balcony next to Death. He seeks fortune in all the modern ways, and is tempted by whatever can tickle and amuse him.

The lessons learned come, in the second half, from a naturalistic, rather than from a traditionally theological, approach, and here is where the major philosophical divergence from a more traditional morality play emerges. The result is a pretty interesting take on the challenges of life.

Given the nature of the script and its variety of references to what seem like Catholic liturgy, I would wager that Carol Ann Duffy, the playwright, is wrestling with traditional Catholic notions and reconceiving them, in some way, here. Those not from that tradition who see the play may be less connected to its particular formulations, but one can, vicariously, get the impact of this unsettlement of the traditional Christian view.

There is, in addition to a lively ensemble and some convincing performances, some great choral harmony. On a number of occasions the entire cast breaks into song and it’s really beautiful. Apparently the cast was not auditioned for singing, but rose to the occasion mightily to realize the visions of the composer who created their musical offerings. Really great.

As Death, Julee Antonellis gives a particularly evocative performance, edgy and punctuated.

Ann Carpenter as God is persuasively ordinary, convincingly divine in that way.

Armando Rivera as Everyman is appropriately anguished, dangling in moral space.

– BADMan

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