Tuesday, May 10, 2016

reviews - THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, CHARLES DICKENS AND COUNT LEO TOLSTOY: DISCORD - Arizona Theatre Company

Mark Gagliardi, Armin Shimerman, and Larry Cedar
Photo by Tim Fuller
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through May 29th.

"...Discord... brings together three men from different historical times, each with very different backgrounds, and forces them to confront each other, and themselves, while imprisoned....Thomas Jefferson (Larry Cedar),...Charles Dickens (Mark Gagliardi) ...Leo Tolstoy (Armin Shimerman). ...Three famous names of history are trapped together, not in the belly of a whale, but a room, and there they’ll remain....but why the three men are together eludes them; at least, at first. Then it comes. The three men, skilled in the literary arts, realize that each wrote their own version of Christ’s story, versions reflecting their own particular beliefs rather than one dictated by others.  “We three are Gospelists,” states Dickens....Carter’s fun though flawed script sparkles with the kind of intellect and wit of someone who has studied his characters as much as he can.... the three actors under the play’s original director Matt August have mastered their characterizations in surprisingly effective ways, particularly the accents.  Gagliardi’s Dickens’ southern English delivery is as flamboyant as his colorful appearance; everything is a theatrical declaration.  Cedar’s Jefferson talks as you would imagine he might; a first generation American of English origin with the slightest hint of Virginia.  And Shimermann’s Tolstoy brims with the voice of a robust Russian without a hint of caricature. By the play’s conclusion, there’s the troubling feeling that the script was never fully baked; something is missing, though exactly what is difficult to say. ..." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)


"Take three men renowned for their intellect and literary abilities and put them in a locked room to have them debate their views on the gospels of Christ, while coming to terms with their own past indiscretions, and you end up with the witty and thought-provoking comedy The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord. This new play by Scott Carter...is receiving a crackerjack production at Arizona Theatre Company that features three exceptional performances and impressive creative elements. The basis of Carter's play, as he mentions in the program notes, was formed when he discovered that all three men had created their own abridged versions of the Bible. ...Discord puts all three men in a locked room, immediately after their deaths, and turns this version of heaven's waiting room into the location for a triangular duel where the three debate their individual versions of the gospels. ...Is their mission to unite their versions of the Bible into one unified scripture?..Or, are they each on trial for errors of judgement in their pasts and how they actually didn't fully live according to the words of the gospel they so relished?  While Carter's ending isn't exactly conclusive, the journey proves, as is asked in the play, that the world clearly is better off for these three men having lived. The trio of actors who bring these well-known men to life are superb in their portrayals. Larry Cedar evokes a regal, gentlemanly tone as Thomas Jefferson, who often serves as the mediator for the clashes between the other two men. Mark Gagliardi is overly dramatic, animated, and constantly moving as the humorous, larger than life Dickens while, as a nice counterpoint, Armin Shimerman adds a rough, gruff, and grounded sensibility as the strong and firm Tolstoy. ...Director Matt August plays up the humorous moments but is also exceptionally effective in his focus as the play takes a more serious tone in its final scenes....Takeshi Kata's simplistic scenic design of large white walls works well to allow Elias Teeter's imaginative projections and Luke Moyer's vibrant lighting to transform the space and play off the changing moods and tones of the play. Ann Closs-Farley's period perfect costumes pop, especially her colorful and outlandish designs for Dickens.....Discord is not only a hilarious and brainy battle of wits but also an interesting expose into the past and an examination of what happens when we are faced to repeat it.... rich in substance, and ATC's production is as rewarding as the play, with an exceptional cast, confident direction, and vivid and clever creative elements."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...Arizona playwright Scott Carter’s play rambles on with no great revelations.  It’s not a surprise that the characters have dissimilar feelings and thoughts about these important issues.  They are from different societies and historic periods.  As each generation expands its thinking on these issues, personal ideas and reactions change.  Few details of each man’s thoughts are exposed and since the men are so well known as are the ideas, the discussions prove bland.... the play gets didactic causing a squirmy audience that reacts with wonder about how long this static talky debate can transpire....There’s nothing wrong with the three superb actors who portray these men. ... As strong as these performances are, the play doesn’t allow you to get to know or care about these important men. There’s nothing in “The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy: Discord” to keep the audience interested in the characters opinions or ideas...."
--Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

"... a play that simply tries too hard to marry subtle philosophy with broad comedy. Playwright Scott Carter has clearly done his research, but onstage his characters are rendered as cartoonish parodies. ....“Discord’s” marriage of comedy and theology is, well, a discordant one — especially when it shifts gears into forced pathos for an overwrought climax."  - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)


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