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David Edgar's


The Hosts
Gabriella Pecs - Colleen Wainwright
Father Sergie Bojovic - Jay Harik
Father Peter Karolyi - Michael Louden
Pusbas - David Reynolds
Mikhail Czaba - Jeliaz Drent
Restorer - Lori Nelson
Anna Jedlikova - Janellen Steininger
Soldier - Andrew D'Angelo
Soldier/Swedish Man - Jonathan Winn

The Guests
Oliver Davenport - Don Oscar Smith
Leo Katz - Leo Marks
Toni Newsome/Secretary - Dorie Barton

The Asylum Seekers
Yasmin - Lauren Campedelli
Rauf - Valeri Georgiev
Antonio - Jason Delane
Amira - Alicia Adams
Marina - Galina Zaytseva
Grigori - Alexis Kozak
Abdul - Monish Bakshi
Tunu - Uma Nithipalan
Nico - Guy Ale
Cleopatra/Girl - Beata Swiderska
Fatima - Anna Khaja

Director - Bart DeLorenzo
Scenic Designer - Jason Adams
Lighting Designer - Lap-Chi Chu
Costume Designer - Barbara Lempel
Sound Design - John Zalewski
Production Stylist - Ann Closs-Farley

Associate Director - Jeff McDonald
Dramaturg - Scott Horstein
Associate Producer - Lori Nelson
Assistant Lighting Designer - Adam Greene

Paintings - John Zalewski
Props - Connie Monaghan
Lighting Designer - Lap-Chi Chu
Costume Designer - Barbara Lempel
Sound Design - John Zalewski
Production Stylist - Ann Closs-Farley

Stage Manager - Beth Mack
Assistant Stage Manager - Dani Ringwald

Graphic Design - Colleen Wainwright

May 25 - July 13, 2002

Don Oscar Smith (Oliver) and Colleen Wainwright (Gabriella)

Don Oscar Smith (Oliver) and Colleen Wainwright (Gabriella)

Leo Marks (Leo), Guy Ale (Nico), Colleen Wainwright (Gabriella),
Dorie Barton (Toni) and Don Oscar Smith (Oliver)

The end



A dissection of the complex tangle of politics, history and art, alongside and intermingled with a veritable census survey of world refugees, David Edgar’s Pentecost is a play with a lot on its mind. The Evidence Room, perhaps the hottest L.A. theater company of the moment, proves up to the task of taking it on, with artistic director Bart DeLorenzo staging this big work with a consistently good – and did I mention big? – ensemble of 23. There’s a seriousness at work here that’s not just admirable but genuinely compelling, with the actors keeping the intensity level of Edgar’s broad-ranging arguments high throughout.

Brit Edgar is best known for his Tony-winning adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby. Edgar wrote Pentecost in the mid-’90s, in the midst of the immediate post-Cold War era, and it’s a fascinating exploration of all the changes occurring in Eastern Europe at the time, the blunt collision of worldviews. The play takes place in a church in an unnamed Eastern European country that is emerging from four decades of communist control. Into this building Gabriella Pecs (Colleen Wainwright), a curator from the not-world-renowned National Museum, brings an English art historian, Oliver Davenport (Don Oscar Smith), to evaluate a find. Behind a brick facade, buried under centuries of history, Pecs has uncovered what seems to be a 12th century painting. If the timing turns out to be accurate, then it’s clear that the painting, in a style thought unimaginable before Giotto in the late 13th century, could revolutionize art history, and with it our understanding of the history of Western thought.

The peeling away of this painting is the main visual motif at work, reflecting the never-ending layers of history and politics and all other sorts of cultural considerations the play unveils. Set designer Jason Adams has done a truly remarkable job, allowing the painting to seem in a very different state of repair in every scene, with only quick blackouts to make the changes. The Evidence Room’s warehouse-ish space serves nicely as this old church, with the audience lined up on the two long sides of the room and the action given ample space in between.

For the first act, the action is primarily debate. Folks enter, all with different agendas relating to the painting, opening up new topics of argument. There’s the cultural minister (Jeliaz Drent); competing priests, one Catholic (Michael Louden), one Orthodox (Jay Harik); an American art historian (Leo Marks), who resists Davenport and Pecs’ efforts to remove the painting from the church; and a magistrate (Janellen Steininger) who holds a hearing on the matter, in which the various debates over the authenticity and future of the painting reach a crescendo.

These debates, rich and ever-evolving, actually get shuffled off to the side as the play takes an abrupt turn when a group of stateless refugees lays siege to the church and takes hostages. The arguments over art history and what should happen to the painting transform into arguments about the status of refugees all over the globe, and ultimately, believe it or not, all of this comes together in a well devised and well earned ending.

Given the density of all this, DeLorenzo’s focus on basic clarity is a smart one. And you know he’s found the right unadorned style for it when you don’t blink at Edgar’s blatant contrivances – stateless refugees don’t really travel together as a team, at least certainly not so neatly representing every example of their ilk. The second act includes the various refugees stepping forward and telling national stories, dancing, all while the art historian/hostages argue with the siege's Palestinian leader (Lauren Campedelli). It’s realistically played, but, despite strikingly bringing to mind the recent Church of the Nativity siege in the Middle East, it’s less about realness and more about ideas, about the clash of East and West.

American actors are wont to turn dialogue laced with political opinion into soap-box tirades, and that tendency certainly emerges here. The actors often spit out their points of view, hammering rather than persuading their audience. But they manage to make all this come off more as passionate commitment than sheer shrillness, and overall the performances here are convincing. Wainwright as the stubborn Pecs, Smith as the often befuddled Davenport and Marks as the haughty American form the central triumvirate, and they provide a nice, varied mix of tone and delivery. The ensemble’s employment of accents is quite strong. Sometimes DeLorenzo allows too much to be going on throughout the space, with peripheral stuff taking focus away from the argument of the moment. And there are other quibbles one can make here and there. But this is a show that has so much going for it that its flaws get buried by the sheer force of its ambition and intelligence.

– Steven Oxman

Los Angeles Times

David Edgar’s Pentecost was first produced in 1994, before the events of Sept. 11 had so radically reconfigured the world political landscape. A certain anachronistic mustiness is evident in the play’s current production at the Evidence Room. However, that and the play’s other shortcomings are dwarfed by the sheer scope of director Bart DeLorenzo’s sweeping, magnificently designed staging, an accomplishment that expands the potential of 99-seat theater.

Challenging, convoluted and at times blatantly self-indulgent, the play is set in an abandoned church in an unnamed Eastern European country shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A 13th-century fresco--hidden, ironically, behind a wall emblazoned with a revolutionary Communist painting – has just been discovered. If proved to predate the works of Giotto, as suspected, the crucifixion scene could explode accepted notions about European art, not to mention trigger a lucrative tourist boom.

The first half of the play concerns whether or not the painting is authentic, and whether it should be stripped from the wall and removed to the country’s national museum. The simple premise spurs a prolonged and provocative discussion that ranges from the fallacy of cultural relativism to the increasing disillusionment of Eastern European society in the post-Soviet order.

Frustratingly, Edgar’s intellectual cerebration turns hemorrhagic when a dozen or so armed and desperate refugees barricade themselves inside the church, taking hostage the Western art experts inside. A polyglot mix, the refugees, who range in ethnicity from Sri Lankan to Kurd to Bosnian, are a remarkably egalitarian group presided over by a female Palestinian, whose absolute authority the men accept without a murmur. Granted, the refugees are subtly sliding into dissent by the play’s final cataclysm. That is to Edgar’s credit, as is his prescient grasp of the destabilization soon to follow the Soviet fall, including the dispiriting surge of nationalism and ethnic hatred. But Edgar, a dedicated leftist perhaps best known for his Tony-winning adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby, reduces his multiethnic assemblage to polemical exponents, stridently decrying the big, bad West for the ills of the world.

Still, Edgar knows his way around an epic. In fact, Pentecost is part of a trilogy of plays inspired by Edgar’s travels to Eastern Europe both before and immediately after the Soviet collapse. For DeLorenzo and company to even assay a project of this magnitude is remarkably gutsy. Only once does DeLorenzo’s staging falter, in a painfully leisurely sequence evidently meant to induce a trance-like, tribal atmosphere, especially excessive considering the play’s three-hour-plus running time. With only rare blunders, a large and ardent cast manages to hold our interest throughout. The design components – especially Jason Adams’ set, Lap-Chi Chu’s lighting, and John Zalewski’s sound – are world-class by any standards.

As for the play, it holds no easy answers and little hope for a brighter tomorrow. But whether you agree with Edgar’s passionate denunciation – or indeed, can even make sense of it – there’s no doubt that you will leave the theater continuing the discussion.

– F. Kathleen Foley

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