|Cameron Darwin Bossert and Maja Wampuyc|
The new, live presentation of The Disciple by the Thirdwing theatre company premiered at The Wild Project and told a riveting tale.
On a very simple level, it is the story of Ayn Rand told through the eyes of her protégé and future best-selling author, Nathaniel Branden. But you can’t summarize the story that simply. The Disciple is many things: a tragic love story, a coming of age story, the story of self-deception, and an argument both for and against Ayn Rand’s “Objective Consciences”. That the play succeeds on all counts is a tribute to writer / director Rachel Carey and cast of Maja Wampuzyc and Cameron Darwin Bossert.
Nathaniel Branden begins the story, and marks the chapters in it, at the foot of the stage, lecturing to a group about his latest self-help book. The play echoes the format of his book “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem”. Early on, he explains that his theory of Objective Consciences comes from his studying under Ayn Rand.
His mini lectures / talks with the audience are expanded and punctuated by the presentations into his relationship with Ayn Rand. What follows is an overview of their relationship and how it morphed over time and guided Nathaniel’s career. Nathaniel first came to Ayn as a “disciple”, one her Objectivist students that worked and supported her. But Nathaniel was more than that. He was her follower and her lover, even though they were both married.
The Disciple provides a unique glimpse into their well-known affair, and how Ayn justified this through her philosophy. Taken literally, this would be a boring lecture, but combined with the view into their relationship and how Ayn’s justifications changed over time, The Disciple shows a rare venerable side to Ayn. It shows emotion in a woman who doesn’t believe in emotions, a dichotomy she cannot come to grips with. Balanced against a lover and devotee that she, ultimately, cannot control.
The scenes with Maja Wampuzyc and Cameron Darwin Bossert show these two at ease and control of their characters, with a chemistry that lights up the play.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Disciple through its multiple lenses. The acting was terrific, and the Wild Project provides an intimate space. At 80 minutes it is a quick dive into fascinating people that are more complex than we think. (Note: Proof of vaccination required.)