Thursday, May 6, 2010

Holy trinity! Sarah Rohl's triptych 'Passion Play' in Brooklyn

A church is the most natural — and most unlikely — setting for playwright Sarah Ruhl’s triptych, “Passion Play.”

Natural because the play explores the staging of the story of Jesus’s death and supposed resurrection; unlikely because of its critical examination of Christian pageants.

That should make the New York premiere of Ruhl’s play all the more intriguing when it opens on May 12 at the Irondale Center inside the historic Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene (catch it in previews now).

The ambitious “Passion Play” is comprised of three connected works, spanning 400 years and three countries, from Queen Elizabeth’s England to Hitler’s Germany to Reagan-era South Dakota.

One actor — T. Ryder Smith — plays all three of the leaders (which should make for some impressive costume changes), while the rest of the cast of 12 takes on the roles of people putting on pageants.

In “Passion Play,” Ruhl — the toast of the theater world even before last year’s critical and commercial hit, “In the Next Room, or the vibrator play,” which was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize — explores the devotional tradition while touching on homosexuality, anti-Semitism, war and race, a la “Angels in America” (there’s even a flying angel).

There’s a lot going on — hence the play’s three-and-a-half-hour runtime — so if you need some reinforcements, there will be bread and wine served during intermission. Irony optional.

“Passion Play” at the Irondale Center [85 S. Oxford St. near Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 488-9233], in previews now, opening May 12 and running until May 30. Tickets $22.50-42.50. For info, visit


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