SUBMISSION DATE: MAY 2, 2000
Martyrs make great copy, but they don’t always make great theater.
The story of Damien De Veuster is a tale of faith, personal sacrifice and life-threatening dedication. It’s the true account of a Catholic priest who defied government, family and church in the late 19th century to boldly live with and defend a community of lepers on the island of Molokai.
The play, by Aldyth Morris, is a retrospective told by the renegade priest after death, looking back on what he did and said over the course of his life. There are outbursts of anger, there’s ranting and railing, there are regrets, there is a questioning of his tactics (but never of his faith). We hear one-sided conversations with various supportive, indifferent or demoralizing clergy and bureaucrats. But over time, we grow weary.
As theater, one could hope for more variety in the tale and in the telling. Lamb’s artistic director Robert Smyth, directed by his wife Deborah Gilmour Smyth, is powerful in his portrayal (which he reprises for the second time at Lamb’s). But two hours plus is more than one wants or needs to know about this man — however admirable, saintly or human he may be. There is one incandescent moment, though; when Damien discovers that he, too, has leprosy, it’s enough to stop your breath and break your heart.
©2000 Patté Productions Inc.