|Baruch de Spinoza's interrogation |
The Lantern Theater Company, located at 10th and Ludlow Streets is presenting the Philadelphia Premiere of New Jerusalem, The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656, through November 6, 2011.
Spinoza is a member of as small Jewish community who fled Portugal during the time of the Inquisition and landed in the seemingly more tolerant Amsterdam. Sam Henderson, portraying Spinoza, finds himself in the fight of his life when he is not only accused of being an atheist, but also must bear the responsibility of carrying shame for the entire Jewish community if he is convicted.. Threatened with excommunication by his teacher and Rabbi, he tries to convince everyone of the logic of his views, even those that he is “still working on.” This very intense production is sprinkled with laugh lines. Just when you are sitting on the edger of your seat, you have an opportunity for a chuckle. Because the seating in the Lantern Theater is on three sides of the stage, characters move around frequently, somewhat akin to actors in a theater in the round.. It is not an easy task to keep up a great measure of intensity while being on the move; the cast of New Jerusalem manages to accomplish just that. Henderson is very expressive both with his body language and his facial expressions. He does not even need to utter a word to get his feelings across. Kittson O’Neill, portraying his half sister Rebekah, gives an excellent portrayal of a female who isn’t about to let her brother ruin her life or reputation as a religious Jew. David Bardeen as Rabbi Saul Levi Mortera also has an opportunity to display his fierce emotions as he can not understand the thinking of his once-prized pupil. The set is very simple but effectively reminiscent of a small 17th century synagogue with a few benches and chairs and an ark to hold the Torah scrolls. Maggie Baker makes her Lantern debut as costume designer and hopefully she will be working on some more productions. The costumes of the women are striking and those of the men are intriguing. This is a potent story and a very powerful production. Be prepared to be enlightened. For ticket information, call 215-829-9002 or visit online at www.lanterntheater.org.