Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Paradise Lost the John Milton Way

Paradise Lost now at the Theater Row Theaters, by the Fellowship for Performing Arts (FPA) is a piece “Inspired by John Milton”. That would be John Milton’s epic 17th century poem about the Angelic Civil War which pitched Lucifer and his cohort against God and, on a parallel track, the story of Adam and Eve in Eden.

David Andrew Macdonald and Lou Libertore pondor the outcome of the Angelic Civil War

It is tricky play to try to review from an independent viewpoint. To quote from FPA themselves, “FPA’s objective is to engage and entertain its patrons by telling stories from a Christian Worldview that have the power to capture the imagination of a diverse audience.” That is a lot to live up to, and Paradise Lost does an excellent job of trying to pull the various pieces together. It is presented in current English, albeit occasionally falling into free verse, with modern touches sprinkled throughout in visual sight gags and throwaway bits. But, it still requires a buy-in to the idea of a Miltonian version of hell: lake of fire, mutinous Angels and a loving but mute God.

Lucifer (a magnetic David Andrew Macdonald) commands the stage, whether in rallying the fallen Angelic troops with soaring rhetoric or gently tempting Eve. His cohort includes the fallen Angels Beelzebub (comic relief by Lou Liberatore) and his wife / daughter Sin (Alison Fraser as a wizened sex bomb). Sin was created, fully formed, by jumping out of Lucifer’s forehead whereupon then immediately copulated and had a child, Death - which seems much more old Greek than old English to me.

Meanwhile, back in the victor’s camp, God has created a new experiment called Man and a place for him to live, the Garden. There we are first introduced to Eve, newly formed and coming to understanding with the world. Marine Shay plays Eve as a fun, questioning and rounded person. Adam, dutifully played by Robbie Simpson, is less questioning and more grateful of God’s bounty. But, then God never talks to Eve, but did talk with Adam.

Paradise Lost actually spends a lot of time trying to understand Eve and her motivation. She is visited by Lucifer and treated by him as an independent person. She is visited by Gabriel (Mel Johnson Jr.) where she is again chastised not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, without any reason. Now both Adam and Gabriel have told her not to or it will displease God, but God never speaks to her. On the other hand, Lucifer, also an Angel, tells her to eat of the fruit and fulfill the destiny God has created for her.

Of course, we know the ending. Woman eats the apple and condemns all mankind to pain, guilt and death because, women - am I right?

Adam and Eve (Robbie Simpson and Marina Shay) in love
The playwright Tom Dulack does a good job of presenting this story. Since I haven’t read John Milton’s 10 volume epic poem, I am not positive of how well he captured the spirit of the piece, but I thought it was well written. Directed by Michael Parva, the story moves along quickly enough, but I found myself frustrated by the story.

The playwright has given Eve more of a story and motivation, but now she is just manipulated by man and Angels. She isn’t worthy of being spoken to by God, but she is somehow responsible for the downfall of all of mankind.

Should you see it? It is an interesting and fun retelling of the downfall of Angels and men. But it requires one to accept that God is omnipotent and benevolent, despite all the evidence being to the contrary.

Paradise Lost
Playwright:Tom Dulack | Director: Michael Parva | Cast: David Andrew Macdonald, Lou Liberatore, Alison Fraser, Marina Shay, Robbie Simpson, Mel Johnson Jr.

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