Silk Road Rising is one of my favorite troupes. Their venue is a church basement in the loop called Pierce Hall and the Church, The Historic Chicago Temple located at the corner of Washington and Clark Streets. Over my years of covering Silk Road Rising, I have reported on many types of stories, mainly related to areas that follow the “Silk Road”, dealing with ethnic situations, customs and of course racial profiling. Their current production, “Paulus” written in hebrew by Motti Lerner with a translation by Hillel Halkin, is a far different theme for thsi company. This is a story that takes us into the life of Jesus Christ as a compassionate senior citizen and his dealings with the Emperor Nero along with the ailing Apostle Paul as he tries to spread his word and save his people.
This is supposed to be a glimpse into what might be the second Temple Judaism and the early days of Christianity. A time of social upheavals, religious beliefs being questioned and of course the iron hand of the Roam Empire smashing all that are in its path. While this story is based on Paul, it is not a true picture of the Apostle, but rather his inner thoughts and mindset. The Gospels that we witness in this two hours of dark story telling is not by any means historical fact, but is what might have been during this period of time. What appear as “truths” are not in fact “facts” and yet , they may be truths ( in the mind of Paul).
Written by a Jewish Atheist, we look at the Messiah and what he might have been had his life gone longer than that which is written and taught. Both of our “heroes”, Jesus and Paul are of the Jewish faith, each hoping to save their people from what might happen to them and to somehow unite their people to believe in the same teachings.Was Paul attempting to complete Judaism, making it the perfect religion? Or was he seeking a way to unveil a new religion that altered what was in the original 613 Commandments?
Directed by Jimmy McDermott, on a dimly lit set (Dan Stratton), I found this to be a rather large undertaking for this company as it veered from their usual plays and was a bit hard to follow at times. The darkness didn’t help, but it was the story line itself that appeared to be lost by a large number of those in attendance on the play’s Wolrd Premiere. The actors were strong, but the weakness of the script and story line made it hard for the audience to remain in focus. Having an intermission may have also been a drawback as it was hard to get back into the story after 15 minutes of socializing. 90 -100 minutes , with no break may just be a better way to do this play.
Daniel Cantor was a powerhouse as Paulus and while Torrey Hanson was powerful in the role of Jesus, I never felt that he was the powerhouse he should have been. Nero was deflt handled by Glenn Stanton and the two ladies, Dana Black and Carolyn Hoerdemann were as stunning as they were believable. While there were some strong moments in the production, I am not sure of the appeal this play will have to either those of the Jewish faith or those who feel Christianity is the place to be. There is conflict, of course in the teachings of the Rabbis, and i am afraid you will have to judge this one for yourself.
The original music (Peter J. Storms) is unique and there is a clever song about how “hard it is to be God”. but again, the set is simple and in the darkness of the lighting effects, it may be difficult to see all that they are trying to accomplish, visually.
“Paulus” will continue at Pierce Hall located at 77 West Washington Street through December 15th with performances as follows:
Thursdays 7:30 p.m. ( except Thanksgiving/Hannukah 11/28)
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 4 p.m.
Tickets are $35- general admission and can be purchased by calling 312-857-1234 etx 201 or online at www.silkroadrising.org
The self park at 230 West Washington offers discounted parking for Silk Road at $8 and there are some unmetered spaces in the area. Lasalle Street is a great place to look on a Saturday or Sunday as they have fewer meters ( don’t tell the city)
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Paulus”