Wednesday, April 11, 2007

PLAY: "Apostasy"

In which genre can you classify a play whose artificial passion sweeps up all the loopholes of its plot into one long rambling drama? Given that one of the main characters in Gina DiIorio’s Apostasy is a televangelist, let's call it a teledrama. Although the play purports to be about apostasy itself, there is no faith to renounce: our hero, the cancer-ridden Sheila Gold, is a Jew-turned-agnostic-turned (because there "are no agnostics on a cancer ward") born-again Christian. And while Sheila plans to donate all her money to her newly-found personal savior, a charismatic televangelist named Dr. Julius Strong, if there's any abandonment of loyalty, it's from Sheila's daughter, Rachel, who refuses to acknowledge Strong as anything other than a con artist.

Director Frances Hill does a decent job of keeping us guessing as to whether or not we can take Dr. Strong seriously, but playwright DiIorio lets the secret slip out in the end, which takes all the doubt out of the play. Considering there's already a dramatic lack of tension, this straightforward conclusion serves only to add another layer of blandness. The set, designed by Roman Tatarowicz, is more interesting than the script: a sterile, waiting-to-die room in a private cottage in Westchester Hospice (complete with televisions built into the wall).

Though there are plenty of opportunities for DiIorio to play with the politics of the show – Shelia takes medical marijuana to stoke her appetite, while Rachel works at an abortion-clinic and has received death threats – Apostasy only manages to explore the superficial relationship between a needy woman and a desperate preacher. The relationship is rendered irrelevant in the wake of DiIorio's climactic shouting matches. Perhaps Entropy would've been a more suitable title than Apostasy.

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