Anyone interested in exercising the little gray cells during this quiet time before the new theater season begins is in luck this year. Three interesting and very different types of productions have opened off-Broadway: Don Juan in Hell by George Bernard Shaw at The Irish Repertory Theater, And God Created Great Whales a chamber opera written, composed and performed by Rinde Eckert at 45 Bleecker Theater, and Jerusalem Syndrome a one man show written and performed by Marc Maron at The Westbeth Theater. All are playing through September. If these three productions are any indication of the theater season to come we’re in for a very good year.
Don Juan in Hell
Don Juan in Hell is actually the two hour third act of Shaw’s Man and Superman. It is usually performed as a dramatic reading, and that’s how it’s being presented at The Irish Repertory Theater. Donal Donnelly, Celeste Holm, James Stephens and Fritz Weaver are having a grand time performing their roles as the devil, Dona Ana, Dona Ana’s father (the statue) and Don Juan. Shaw uses these characters, from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, to humorously and thoughtfully debate many social and philosophical problems. If, deep in you heart, you know that all the fun and interesting people eventually go to “Hell”, then you will enjoy hearing Shaw’s take on the subject. Fritz Weaver is particularly good as Don Juan and Donal Donnelly makes a fine Devil. This production has been extended until October 8th, so there is still time to buy tickets.
And God Created Great Whales
Those who enjoy a musical and a theatrical challenge should definitely try And God Created Great Whales at the 45 Bleecker Theater through October 1st. This chamber opera about a piano tuner who is losing his mind as he composes an opera about Captain Ahab in “Moby Dick” who is, likewise, going mad. Both composer and captain are obsessed with obtaining their elusive life goals. Rinde Eckert has written, composed and performed this work with an intensity and grace that is astounding to watch. His beautiful baritone voice rings throughout the theater as he spirals downward into oblivion. Nora Cole enchantingly plays an inspirational muse, created in the composer’s imagination to prod and goad him to complete his final opera. This avant garde production should be seen by those interested in modern opera as well as the musical theater. It is a night you will remember.
Finally there is Jerusalem Syndrome, a one-man show written and performed by Marc Maron, a comedian with a serious edge. He asks the audience to consider his situation when God, through a series of coincidences and visions, eventually sends him on a messianic mission to Israel. “Why not me?” he asks. God spoke to Abraham and other Biblical prophets. Didn’t he? Now, it’s Marc Maron’s turn to save the world. And so the playwright takes us through his funny, druggie and tortuous young life to college, Hollywood and, eventually, to Israel where he attempts to speak to the Lord. Actually he is trying to videotape Him/Her. This is a thought provoking and often hilarious show.
Try something daring and different. These shows are all worthwhile.
Don Juan in Hell by George Bernard Shaw
And God Created Great Whales by Rinde Eckert
Jerusalem Syndrome by Mark Maron