Friday, November 28, 2008

The Grand Inquisitor

It's rarely more austere than this: one thin, white raised platform, two black chairs, one actor talking while another listens. And yet for its full 55 minutes the simplicity here makes for an electrifying theatricality, forcing a focus where one actor raising his palms in the air becomes a cataclysmic event. The intensity is not a surprise, considering that Peter Brook has directed and that the text is an adaptation of Dostoyevsky's intellectually staggering tale in which Christ returns to Earth during the Spanish Inquisition. Bruce Myers, as both narrator and Inquisitor who (in a manner of speaking) puts the silent Christ on trial, is spellbinding, anchoring his performance with a gravity so core-shaking that the stage can barely contain it. Is man's free will incompatible with happiness? Are the edicts of Christianity impossible for its followers to ever achieve? How does evil masquerade as good? These are the kinds of questions I was left with after seeing Dostoyevsky's arguments put on stage and made newly vibrant and disturbing here. In a word, it's devastating.

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