I attended a reading of Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl on Monday at the Central Square Theater, put on by the Underground Railway Theater Company, which my actor friend was participating in. I’m still amazed that I have a friend I can go see on the stage multiple times a year. I know many more writers than I do performers, and writing seems somehow more private, less performative, so acting is really foreign to me.
Anyway, the reading was grand, and powerful. I’d never been to a bare-bones black box reading before, but it made the play’s language stand out. This was also thanks to the actors, who were passionate – pun intended, maybe – and funny and sad, for the most part. Ruhl also has some fabulous language in this play, so it took well to reading, it’s definitely not a play that relies on set or action. Plus, it has religion, sex, love, death, miracles both real and fake, giant colorful fish, Reagan, Queen Elizabeth, Hitler, angels, a play within a play, Vietnam, affairs, and multiple village idiots. Yet, it ties all of these things together REALLY WELL. It reminded me in a way of the structure of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (at least the first half of that novel), but even more strongly interwoven, and not at all in a heavy-handed way. Something like that could easily go cheesy, but Ruhl maintains humor and depth and a deft hand with the references.
The URTC was reading this in order to figure out if they want to put the play on next season (or maybe next next? not sure what their time line is), and I’m really hoping they decide to! If you have an opportunity to go see this one, or even pick up the play itself, do it. I bet it would be a pretty good read, in addition to a good performance piece.
Also, just as a side note, I really need to find out the identity of that painting on this cover. It’s gorgeous.