By Eugene Paul
the actively –no pun intended – proselytizing Christian centered Fellowship
for the Performing Arts, playwright Tom Dulack has rendered a staged version
of the great John Milton’s massive ten volume epic poem, “Paradise Lost” which
saw the light of day and brought it to the English speaking world in 1667.
Milton’s poem is considered one of the greatest written works of all time. It
has been lavishly, lovingly staged by director Michael Parva in scenic designer
Harry Feiner’s extraordinary settings – Hell and the Garden of Eden, thanks
to superb projections by John Narun heavily indebted to Michelangelo and
Gustave Dore, to name a few, crunched and updated to a mere 110 minutes
without intermission. Sheer chutzpah.
are at the Beginning of Time. The smoke and fires of Hell and horrid
rumblings (courtesy of sound designer John Gromada) slowly disperse to present
two exotic figures, Lucifer and Beelzebub, sorely battered, having been thrown
out of Heaven into the steaming maw of Hell.
Lou Liberatore and David Andrew
Macdonald photos by Jeremy Daniel
angel Lucifer (splendid David Andrew MacDonald), his beautiful wings intact,
stands angrily erect, his handsome epauletted military uniform circa 1890
soiled and scorched. Beelzebub (stalwart Lou Liberatore) has not fared as
well: one wing is gone to its stump, the other frazzled, his Roman centurion AD
43 attire a sturdy mess. (We can see costume designer Sydney Maresca is having
a lark, tongue in cheek, witty comment, what have you.)
rages at the unjustness of Heaven but never conveys to us why he was tossed
out. His aim: revenge for his indignities. He will summon all the millions in
Hell into a brazen army to fight for his rightful place at or on the throne of
Heaven, we aren’t sure which. Beelzebub soldiers on. It’s obvious we needn’t
have read Milton’s original. Things are pretty plain. And besides, everybody
knows the upcoming Bible story of Adam and Eve. Surer ground, so to speak.
We’re anticipating the Garden of Eden, and designer Maresca’s witty take on
birthday suits for Adam and Eve.
Robbie Simpson and Marina Shay
durn. But Eve (charming Marina Shay) is such an adorable dumbdora we don’t
really mind her pinkish shift, we know it’s for our benefit so we’re prepared
for Adam’s pinkish coverings but the shorts—well I dunno. Adam (Robbie Simpson)
is kind of an iffy twink, but what else would he be when you think about it,
and he thinks Eve is so darn cute. And so does she. We kind of gasp a little
when she pulls an apple off a cute little tree and starts eating it but, no
worries, it is not THE tree. The Tree of Knowledge, as we all know. Don’t we?
David Andrew Macdonald and Mel Johnson Jr
in case you somehow haven’t heard if you are of a different persuasion Adam
spells it all out loud and clear and what he doesn’t spell, along comes Gabriel
(Mel Johnson Jr) a very smiling Archangel and helps really to lay it all out.
As far as he knows, and that’s quite a lot.
David Andrew Macdonald and Marina Shay
he hasn ‘t reckoned on the serpent in the Garden – I’d been waiting for this –
and serpent indeed he is, Lucifer all recostumed in a very hip snakeskin
jacket, working his nefarious wiles on innocent Eve, who has a soft spot: she
wants to know things. How is it that she has the names for everything, how is
it she can talk to the birds and that—that squirrel? And oh, lots of other
Dulack’s inventiveness has inspired him to provide Sin (Alison Fraser) with an
electric scooter enabling her to enter and exit with necessary dispatch for all
her scenes with he husband, Lucifer, who is also her father. Those
relationships come right from Milton, if not the scooter, and those indicators
convey Sin for what she is, yet never quite sufficiently to sully Lucifer’s own
appraisal of his own worth Sin is an eyeful, costume designer Maresca at full
throttle. Where some might wear her heart on her sleeve she flaunts her entrails
on her overskirt.
the players enact the old story, very little of it in Milton’s own words, what
comes out is that it is women who are to blame for Sin, something being at the
forefront of today’s news, only now, women are fighting back at all the
Lucifers and the Lucifers are losing their angelic wings. Poor Eve never knows
why she should not know –God said no and God’s no is No –which lays the blame
on Eve and her sex for all of humankind not to be enjoying Paradise. I don’t
think this was the intended message of the Fellowship for Performing Arts but
who argues with Milton? A mostly scant but attentive audience remained as if
in pews to hear Artistic Director Max McLean explain after the show.
Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street. Tickets:$75-$95. 212-239-6200.
110 min. Thru Feb 23.