Performing Arts ~ Morality Play at the Gamm Theatre ~ Pawtucket

Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theatre
172 Exchange St.
Pawtucket, Rhode Island
(401) 723-4266

World premiere of Morality Play
play runs January 1- February 1

In trying to explain the play to Bear, I compared it to The Crucible, a play that addresses contemporary issues by putting them in a historical setting. The characters in Morality Play are far less one dimensional, though.

(via the press release)
"1361: A bone-chilling winter in England. The Black Death, dormant for more than a decade, has returned with a vengeance. 
The Church rules the land, and a ragged troupe of actors accompanied by a renegade priest roam the countryside performing religious stories for the masses. But everything changes when a young boy is found dead and a mute girl stands to be hanged for the murder. Sensing a miscarriage of justice (and potential earnings!), the itinerant actors try to unravel the mystery by weaving the murder into their morality play.
The result is a political morass fraught with danger for everyone involved. 
Adapted from the best-selling novel by Booker Prize Winner Barry Unsworth, Morality Play is a medieval murder mystery at the crossroads of sacred and secular-full of intrigue, suspense and lessons for our time."
I saw Morality Play last night, in my first visit to the Gamm Theatre. It's a small space, with office-style chair seating, and barebones costumes and stage. I scored a front row seat, which is to say there was less than a yard between my knees and the edge of the stage. Close enough that one of the costumes caught on my knee as the actor ran by.

The story is intriguing. As the mystery grows, the players also grow, in awareness and depth. I've got the source book by Barry Unsworth on my to-read list.

All the performances are strong, but there are some real standouts.

Margaret, a secondary character, as played by Casey Seymour Kim is nuanced and savvier than anyone guesses.
Elliot Peters was excellent as Springer, the youngest of the troupe, and occasional voice of conscience.
Clara Weishahn as the deaf-mute Jane conveyed a wealth of horror and fear with inarticulate sounds and expressive body gestures.
Tony Estrella played Martin Bell, the leader of the troupe of players. He also adapted the book for the stage and is the Gamm's Artistic Director. I loved the journey he took with Bell. Mr. Estrella and I talked briefly after the performance as well.

Another thing to say about the experience - I've been to a few different theater events in Rhode Island, but at the Gamm was the first time when people sitting nearby engaged me in conversation. The audience (or at least regular attendees) are a true community, exchanging conversation with each other and the actors.

I'll be back to the Gamm. And if you enjoy allegory, Medieval settings, and/or murder mysteries, you should go, too.



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