“Pentecost” First Drafts

Hello,critics! Here’s your spot for posting reviews of this evening’s production.”Pentecost.” See you all bright and early at nine tomorrow morning! -Scott

6 Comments on ““Pentecost” First Drafts

  1. Pentecost Review

    With the upcoming release of The Monuments Men, the importance and preservation of art is something that has been popping up recently. Stories of art being the one true document to ancient civilizations after they have long past is always something that we as theatre fans and human beings can get behind. Now here comes Pentecost, a play that delves deep into these ideals.
    Following the fall of the Berlin wall, an English art historian has traveled to the streets of Russia to an abandoned church. Hidden in its walls is a rare 13th century painting that could change everything. The fate of the painting results in political, artistic, and religious debates. Pentecost is filled with unexpected twists, wild characters, and 12 languages including Russian, Polish, and Arabic.
    Pentecost is a dense, but beautiful play filled to the brim with detail. Assisted by a stunning set, the events and themes of Pentecost begin to unfold brick by brick until the real truth is uncovered. This unraveling is slow, but takes its time to unearth every single detail until you’re left feeling drained. The first act moves at a snail’s pace, almost wrapping up its issues by its conclusion, but things take a turn towards the unexpected that leave you wanting more.
    The company is filled with exemplary actors who really live in the characters they are portraying. Not a single choice or characterization feels false, even from people with less speaking time. The use of different languages isn’t there as a gimmick like it might seem, but rather to give the play a sense of authenticity. These people are passionate about everything and are willing to die for what they believe in, whether it is art or freedom.
    The 12 languages and setting bring up Tower of Babel comparisons almost right away and the play addresses that. It works though because it also offers the other side of the coin. The Tower of Babel is a story showing how the language barrier will always keep us divided. That no matter what we will never be united in culture, faith, or politics. However, Pentecost has one scene where it seems like everyone is on the same page and the honesty of that moment offers a ray of hope in humanity.
    Pentecost is not for everyone. It’s weighed down with all this information and symbolism that you can get lost easily if you’re not paying attention. People with little patience will not be able to make it through the first act. If those people stay though, they will be brought through a nail biter of a second act that plays on the differences on culture, politics, and faith. It’s a slow burn, but it’s all serving for a grander purpose. Without the first act, the second doesn’t make sense and vice versa. Everything comes full circle to a conclusion that will haunt you long after you’ve left the theatre.

  2. Looking for a show to watch after reading The Davinchi Code? Then Middlebury’s production of Pentecost is for you, even though it wasn’t for me. Pentecost takes place in an abandoned church in an unnamed southeastern European country. Within the play there’s a found ancient wall mural, hostages held, Gypsies, Arabs, Americans, Brits and even a nude priest.
    While the plot of the show was difficult to follow and understand, the production was as solid as it comes. Even without being able to understanding what some actors were saying in different languages, one could easily see that every actor on the stage was a hundred and ten percent committed to the portrayal of their parts. There were at least two accents being spoken on stage at a time, and the actors were still able to keep their accents straight. The ensemble was as talented as the leads and each member created distinct convincing characters.
    The wall at the back of the set was the most impressive part of the show; comprised of multiple layers the production was able to show the passage of time partially by the revealing of the mural, as new spots were uncovered and recovered. The lighting was expertly handled and well utilized to show the different lighting for the time of day or night needed in each scene. The sound effects were mostly realistic and had me jumping out of my seat towards the end of the show. The costumes were well put together and helped further distinguish the groups of characters from one another.
    The only problem of this show is well… the work itself. I feel to truly enjoy this show you have to be among the brilliant. I for one do not enjoy seeing shows that make me question what I am watching and then make me feel uneducated for not being able to follow what is going on. The show went from being all about the found mural to taking a sharp turn into the obscure when angry displaced people seize control and take the show into a completely different direction. The show was quite dense and still clocked in at a little under three hours. Considering the audience at KCACTF is mostly college students with some professors this was a surprising pick, as talented as the cast and production was, I don’t believe this was the right audience for it.

  3. If David Edgar’s Pentecost had to be described in one word, the first that comes to mind is “brave”. Not only was it brave of Middlebury College to bring such a thought-provoking, intellectually challenging, politically based play to an audience comprised mostly of 18-20something college students known for demanding entertainment that requires no brain power at all, but the production itself wasn’t afraid to take risks. The numerous accents the actors were called to attempt could have been recipe for disaster, but the exceptionally talented cast rose to the occasion with impressive results. The set went the whole nine yards; complicated yet somehow appearing simplistic due to seamless scene changes, it was bold enough to pull me in and keep me there. As soon as the lights went up, I was automatically transported to the abandoned church; the sense of place and atmosphere was absorbing.
    However, Pentecost’s biggest risk was its run time of three hours. Depending on your interest level in art history, politics and national or religious fundamentals, this could either be its downfall or its triumph. Looking back on the show, I can easily say it was brilliant. The acting, the set, the technical effects, the message of the story–mind-blowing. That being said, sitting through it wasn’t quite effortless. The emphasis Pentecost placed on realism achieved major believability, but also forced the pace to drag. There was so much content to be delivered that often I’d find myself drifting off even while struggling to focus, not wanting to miss something that would clear up some of the confusion fogging the first half of the play. I don’t think young college students are the ideal audience for this play–unless one happens to be majoring in art history. It just wasn’t immediately relatable, causing attention to wander and fidgeting to occur. Perhaps if the first act had been edited down, even if it meant sacrificing some of the focus on establishing realism, sitting through Pentecost would have been more enjoyable right from the get go. Luckily the leads, actors Jeffries Thaiss and Tosca Giustini as Dr. Davenport and Mrs. Pecs, developed such a believable relationship right from the beginning that cheering for them was the play’s saving grace–they were undeniably worth watching.
    Thankfully, the second act was much more successful in securing the audience’s attention, because the stakes were raised and the conflict became less intellectual and more immediate straight away. The ending itself was shocking; it left me breathless. It sought to prove that the divide between nations can be bridged, that we are not so different from each other after all no matter what country we come from, and that together we are all human; a theme finally relatable for everyone. So, to put it plainly: is it boring? If you choose not to invest in the characters, then yes, it is boring, and you will leave at intermission. But if you choose to stick it out, art major or not, you may find yourself blown away by the power of a fearless ending delivered by a stunningly capable cast–as long as you can sit through three hours of content overload to get there.
    Take it or leave it, keeping in mind I belong to the generation in love with immediate thrills–for instance, the majority of us would much rather read a fast-paced young adult novel over classic literature, and the logic behind choosing which play to see is not all that different. My advice: be brave. Take a risk. Steel yourself for a three hour play and prepare to be surprised at just how much you may end up loving it.

  4. In order to better understand the play Pentecost by David Edgar it helps to know a little bit about art and recent events in History. One does not have to be an expert in either subject to grasp the plays overall message though. It does bear a slight resemblance to Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia in the elements of the potential for budding romance between the two lead characters and the overall mystery involving some famous work of art or literature. The play focuses on a fresco found in a Romanesque church by a museum curator and the ensuing argument between two art historians over is the painting authentic and if so is it best left where it is or is it better off taken down and moved to a place where it can be better preserved? The primary theme of the play is about cultural divide although this is not immediately clear at first along with the idea of despite our many differences there is still common ground to be found in certain places should we choose to look. The idea of cultural divide is present throughout the play in aspects of having two separate actions going on at the same time on separate sides of the stage or how the characters spoke not only in English to each other but in other languages as well and successfully switched back and forth between them as needed. Regardless of the language spoken the actors did a very good job with their accents they were not too over the top and did not affect the delivery of their lines one bit. By the end of the first act this theme of cultural divide is brought to the forefront of the audience’s attention when the main characters are taken hostage by a band of refugees and as the plot unfolds and the refugees begin to share their stories the lines dividing the two groups begin to blur and they come to a better understanding of each other. The play is long with a run time of a little over 2 hours but at the same time one becomes so invested in both the plot and actors alike that the length is completely overlooked. The cast as a whole did a very good job with their various characters two in particular that stood out were Gabriella Pecs played by Tosca Giustini and Leo Katz who was played by Alex Draper. It was very easy to become invested in the character of Gabriella because the way Giustini portrayed her it was very clear Gabriella Pecs was passionate about not only art as a whole but the fresco itself as at one point during the play she explains what having this fresco in the country’s museum would mean. As for Draper the first half of the play the minute his character opens his mouth you know something bad is about to happen. By Act 2 though the character of Leo Katz seems to undergo One thing that both Giustini and Draper would have benefited from was slowing down when they spoke. A lot of the time during the course of the play it was I found myself not understanding what was going on when either character was speaking as they were speaking so fast that not only the some of the words were lost but the intent as well. They were not the only cast members who were guilty of this but it was more noticeable as they are bugger character sin the play. Also at points the audience would be laughing and I would not understand why possibly having missed the joke but again not sure as everything was moving so quickly. This seemed to be a common problem not just amongst various cast members but with the play as well. There were certain parts where it was unclear why something was happening or why two characters were having the conversation they were having as well as certain aspects that were not explained such as when the refugees burst in it is unclear why the characters are taken hostage or even why the refugees decided to do it,it is simply accepted as this is what is happening. You are able to get the gist of what is going on as the scenes and play progress but that is from the audience filling it in themselves not the actors telling their story. Not to mention when certain characters made their first entrances they were not introduced right away it was up to the audience to look in their programs to figure out who the new characters were which took away from the act of watching the play. The ending was a shock and a touch confusing too but the actors portrayed it with such emotion and intention that again it is completely overlooked. I would recommend seeing Pentecost because the combination of the strong plot and cast as a whole is so committed to the production it makes for a very engaging production to watch.

  5. Pentecost is set at a precise point in history, shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but its core themes are devastating and timeless. It’s a slow burn of a play. Its first act is packed with information, on topics ranging from art history to post-Soviet geopolitics, but its second and final act shows its true colors. It is a story of universal humanity, of the cultural features that pull people together and rip them apart, as well as the personal damage that broad, callous international politics can inflict.

    One can imagine that this is a challenging play to stage. The cast has to learn dialogue in a variety of foreign languages, and adopt convincing accents, many of which are Eastern European. To the credit of the cast from Middlebury College, they pull off this aspect beautifully. By my count, there is only one American English-speaking major character in the entire play, but none of the performances felt inauthentic. Given the internationalist themes of the play, it is especially crucial that the nationalities of its characters are not misinterpreted by the audience.

    In many ways Pentecost is a rallying cry against political paternalism and the robbing of war-torn developing nations of their own cultural potential. The masterful set exemplifies this theme; what starts as a drab brick backdrop splashed with a Soviet propaganda poster gradually breaks away, revealing a beautiful (and historically significant) church painting. The painting underneath is the focus of art historian Oliver Davenport, and of Gabriella Pecs, the feisty National Museum curator who hires him to assess the potential masterpiece underneath.
    Their efforts at combatting both stringent bureaucracy and the pompous European-centric art historian Leo Katz are interrupted when a band of refugees, seeking new lives through asylum, bust into the church the art experts are trying to remove the painting from and take them hostage in desperation. As much as the historical and artistic context is important to the play, the soul of the work is revealed here. The refugees, in the stressful hours before their demands are addressed, tell each other jokes and stories. The cast shines in this area as well. As miserable and hopeless as their situation might seem, the refugees light up when telling their tales. One can sense the excitement in each one as they regale the others with something that inspired them, or made them think, or tickled them with laughter.

    One particular standout is Aubrey Dube, who played the Mozambican refugee Antonio. He spins a ridiculous yarn about a crashed British Air Force pilot among a tribe of cannibals. Previously a hardened watchman barking his reports to the rest of the group, Antonio transforms into a wildly physical performer, acting out the cannibals’ undulations and waggling his AK-47 like a makeshift spear. This impromptu burst of creativity seems to sum up what the play is trying to communicate: human beings are born artists. They perform and they create, even when their lives and families have been ripped apart by strife. When one global power crushes a weaker nation into the dust, it also crushes the potential for discovery and cultural history.

    While the acting in general was fantastic, it would have been beneficial if the actors had projected slightly further. The play is packed with dense dialogue; though I never felt as if I had lost the thread of the story, in the moment it occasionally seemed like I was missing lines that could be important. By contrast, many of the sound effects were boomingly loud. While this did seem to jolt the audience and indicate that something significant was happening, this punch could have been retained even if the levels were evened out somewhat.

    Pentecost is intimidating at first, plunging the audience into a world of culture and political history that they might not be knowledgeable about. It’s not a play that hooks the audience right away, instead opting to muse on big questions while the drama is set up. This turns out to be a genius move, as the second act demonstrates how those same big questions hold sway over the lives of people that most of us never come into contact with. By making the viewer feel deeply for these people, especially through the dedicated performances of the cast, Millbury College production of the play gives these broad ideas the intense, emotional focus they deserve.

  6. One of the virtues of theater as an art form is that it is often free to be ideologically complex. Experiencing live actors performing in front of you can stimulate a greater mental energy and focus than you may exhibit while watching a film, which allows an audience to take in more profound and complex dialogue. The Middlebury College production of David Edgar’s Pentecost embodied that uniquely theatrical density of drama as the most cerebrally complex contemporary play I’ve seen on a stage. Yet its cerebral material was rooted in a captivating and relatable human drama.

    The story is of two art experts who discover of a historically important painting, possibly the greatest find since King Tut’s tomb. When met with a cast of twenty-nine other international characters, varying cultural values and personal experiences of suffering collide into deep philosophical argument and a tense and violent hostage situation. The play keeps its philosophical musing livid by rooting all its discourse amidst such a tense situation, continually prompting deep reflection on the significance of art and language in human society while we wait in anguish to discover the fates of the characters

    It is always difficult to play a text full of dense, philosophical musing while keeping the action enthralling. This cast of more than thirty people does so speaking in multiple languages to tell a complicated plot. Everyone’s voice was clear and distinct, in terms of not only accurate accent-work, but also erupting with clear senses of character directives and objective choices.

    The play’s most intense moment came at its climax, in which the dialogue suddenly dispersed for a brutal moment of extreme violence. Never have I screamed out loud at a climax like this and burst into tears at the desolation on stage. Contrariwise, the only moment that took me out of the show was an earlier technical flaw in which the sound of a crying baby was unrealistically loud and clearly emerging from the speaker system, not the baby doll onstage. But the rest of the production was so clean and intense that I left the theater with a heavy sadness for the tragic elements of the drama and a desperate desire to read the play again and delve further into its riveting ideas.

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