Sarah Ruhl's Passion Play at Yale Rep
Although Passion Play is billed as three one-act plays, it is an integrated whole. The dominant motif is the medieval passion play, which forms the play within a play of each of the three pieces. Yet the passions that rule Ruhl’s drama are those of the players—sexual, spiritual, political—set against the period tableaux, first of Elizabethan England; second of 1934 Oberammergau; and last of Spearfish, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, in 1969, 1984, and today.
Ruhl calls upon theatrical traditions from the Greek chorus to the fool of Restoration comedy to the conceits of the passion play itself, while weaving a thoroughly modern dramatic evening.
The cast was superb, with no detectable weaknesses. Felix Solis, as Pontius the fish-gutter; Polly Noonan as the village idiot; and Kathleen Chalfant, as Queen Elizabeth, Adolf Hitler, and Ronald Reagan stood out.
The staging and production design, as always with Yale Rep, were imaginative and well executed. I wish there were a tradition of the director and the design team joining the players for bows at the end.
Passion Play opens tonight at Yale Rep and runs through October 11. If you are anywhere within the sound of my voice, hie thee to New Haven for a theatrical treat. Caveats: While auditorium ventilation is excellent, you should know that tobacco is smoked onstage once or twice and the aroma is detectable. Also, parents might wish to know that adult themes predominate (not obnoxiously by any means, but different families have different sensibilities).