Medieval Pageant Plays from the Wakefield Cycle
Stockton Theatre Club--Stockton Text Center
Drama Discovery Series
Well done to the Stockton Theatre Club, who in conjunction with the Stockton Text Center have pulled off another Drama Discovery -- three Medieval Pageant Plays. These were presented, medieval-and-Wakefield style, in the F-wing atrium, with people walking by and loud noises emanating from all around. No matter! That is the way they were done in the past. The idea was to reach the masses, make them stop and stare, grab them and take them from their humdrum lives, and – though we’ll downplay this at a State College – convert them to the ways of the Lord!
The first play, a very able production, was “Cain and Abel,” directed by Michael Meinberg. Michael, who you will remember from last semester’s "Measure for Measure", was also a very godlike God in this production. He was assisted by Jason Benjamin as Cain, Ramon Lewis as Abel, and a gender-bending Jess Fricano, as the manservant, Garcio. While the accoustics for the atrium space hadn’t been fully determined and the problems ironed out, the play moved along at gusto, and met its climax as Cain felled Abel and God parceled out his retribution.
The second production was no eye-sore either. Joe Heim directed Jacob, and we were introduced to a new actor, Andrew Hess, a transfer student last year, who took on the role of Jacob, endeavoring to come to terms with his jealous brother, Esaw – well that’s the way ‘e saw it anyway! God returned in the body of Michael Meinberg, and two worthy sisters appeared Jesi Meizal (as Rachel) and Krystina Rodgers (as Leah). This play didn’t have quite the dramatic turn of a murder in the family, but a brotherly embrace seems to have gone a long way to resolve matters.
The third performance, "John the Baptist", directed by Brian Graziani, featured a hair-shirted Patrick Judd as John, not-so-fresh from his years in the desert. Patrick took the part by the scruff of the neck and deposited it up and down the atrium, turning the heads of many passers-by whose consciences he pricked in his efforts at three-point conversions. The play had its own gender bending, with Allie Eisenberg appearing as Jesus, while Jess Fricano and Jamie Lokken brought their angelic personalities to their roles -- clearly some type-casting. The play also featured a cameo walk-on from someone in custodial services who felt the need to clean up the baptismal water (brought specially from the Jordan) which had been spilled on the floor -- leaving the audience questioning whether the performance wasn't about Noah's Ark. The high-point, perhaps, ought to have been the John's baptizing of Jesus, but it was probably Patrick's long and loud farewells.
God, we have to suggest, was upstaged somewhat throughout the day by Ken Tompkins, who performed as the Lord of Academe (a more exalted station), explaining to passers by what was going on and giving a brief introduction to the Wakefield plays. Each performance was also preceded with a procession passing by all the wings between M and F, with the actors following the dramaturg, Lane Jackson, who (as only a dramaturg could do) performed on a "medieval" saxophone. People took note as the procession made its way down the halls, though they mostly gave some quizzical looks, until they realized that ARHU was up to its antics again – performing some antique plays, that is.
Thanks to all those involved. David Roessel and Mark Mallett, of course, and the Theatre Club whose members seem constantly willing to punish themselves by taking on any project, however half-baked and ill-conceived – though this one, certainly, appears not to have been. Several people commented that ARHU and the Theatre folks should do more performances like these.