Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Joan of Arc via Patti Smith and Cardinal Dolan

Joan of Arc Into the Fire is a heady brew of an exciting, if occasionally misfiring, first half and a somnambulist and dirge like second half – sprinkled throughout with camp moments both accidental and planned. Mix them all together and put them on stage, and you end up disoriented and a bit annoyed.
This isn’t how Joan of Arc Into The Fire should treat us. David Bryne provides great music, but pedestrian lyrics. Alex Timbers has directed the hell out of this play, using a very busy turntable set, great lighting and fantastic costumes, trying to distract us from the story. Jo Lampert doesn’t just play Joan of Arc, she inhabits the role to perfection.
Cast of Joan of Arc Into The Fire
But at the end of the day, or 90 minutes, you are still left with a story that is not a great fit for a musical. Joan of Arc Into the Fire trims the story down to its essence, but its essence is still a dichotomy.
The first half, here the much more fun half, is full of fire, power, war and the celebration of God’s messenger. We see Joan, a farm girl, be chosen by God to fight the occupying British for France. She convinces the army to take her on as a recruit. Throughout the play the ensemble works wonderfully together. The cast produces energy and fire. They are great! Sure, there is a slight Mulan vibe to some of it, but you can overlook that. You also have to overlook the Dauphin’s robe, which he appeared to have nicked at a Comicon Wizarding convention. It was distracting.
In the second half, we get to the depressing part of the story. Short story, she is captured and sent to burn at the stake by the church. But that takes the second half of the show, and seems even longer. There is a lot of plaintive singing to a suddenly unresponsive God. A lot. There is a great  (and on purpose) camp number by the ensemble as charlatan priest and choir. But the campiness of that number makes you wonder if you should have been laughing during the entire production, and I don’t think that was the point.
Jo Lampert and the cast
From the very first scrim “…she resisted”, there is an overt political tone to the piece. The inequality of women versus men is highlighted. Joan also shows the corruptive price that power and pride bring. But this political tone is a bit undercut by the easy targets of the church and God, which is a feature of the story.
Joan of Arc Into The Fire is quite often interesting, powerful and exciting, but you are faced with a second half that is almost none of those things.
Joan Of Arc Into The Fire |Book, Music and Lyrics: David Byrne | Director: Alex Timbers | Cast:  Jo Lampert, Terence Archie, James Brown III, Jonathan Burke, Rodrick Covington, Sean Allan Krill, Mike McGowan, Dimitri Jospeh Moïse, Adam Perry, John Schiappa, Kyle Selig, Michael James Sahw, Mare Winningham, Mary Kate Morrisey

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