BWW Review: Truth is questioned in the play BARABBAS at Theater For The New City

BWW Review: Truth is questioned in the play BARABBAS at Theater For The New City

According to the Bible, there was a prevailing Passover custom in Jerusalem which allowed a crowd to commute a prisoner's death sentence. When Pontius Pilate asked, they chose Barabbas to be released. Jesus of Nazareth was then crucified. Playwright Will T. F. Carter's first play updates this story to a Peruvian prison in 2021.

Sebastian Sahak Barabbas is a lawyer who has been sentenced to the Miguel Castro Castro prison in the eastern province of Lima. One of the guards is listening to the newly elected President on television. He is going to rout out those people who seek to tarnish his beloved country for personal or financial gain. "Bara" has been caught in a tidal shift and pronounced guilty.

Jesús Moreno Glas is a well-known prisoner. He decided to leak emails to the press exposing corruption in the system. Jesús was not innocent of crimes but decided to reveal the truth. His new roommate is the newly incarcerated Bara who despises him. "You're the reason I'm here. You and your conscience." Jesús has turned to God.

The tension between the two men is palpable right from the start of this short one act play. There are some standard issue topics covered including an uncomfortable bed, sharing a toilet, bad food and mistreatment from guards. The interesting part of this play is the analysis between the characters about their situations amidst a corrupt world. Jesús knows he won't last inside this prison, saying "unlike you, I don't have congressional representation."

Bara is represented by a lawyer who advises that he needs to let things blow over for a while. He is confused by Jesús' viewpoint noting, "your confession solidified the President's message." Is everyone really in favor of transparency? This play argues that truth is only welcome until it has negative personal impacts.

Events happen which destabilize the world outside. The Spin Cycle we see on our televisions every day is employed here to question the validity (or even usefulness) of the truth. Someone may be labeled a criminal one day. A major shift in the prevailing winds could change perception into a more socially acceptable label as political prisoner the next day.

The moral dilemma of self-preservation was particularly interesting. Faced with a Barabbas versus Jesus choice (and one of them was you), how far would you go to not be the one crucified?

This production directed by Eduardo Machado could benefit from even more tension. Darker lighting might enhance the feeling of suffocating in abject squalor. As designed, the set makes conversations happen between characters facing toward each other and away from the audience. More lines were mumbled and lost than is advisable (although I expect that should have improved through previews).

The fight choreography by Daniel Benhamu was excellent. Anwar Wolf portrayed Jesús and believably conveyed all of the piety required. Mateo d'Amato produced and starred in this play as Bara. It's a juicy role with many different emotions. Mr. D'Amato successfully propelled the story and gave us yet another reason to distrust lawyers and whatever establishment is in power. "It was just an envelope.... it's not like I killed someone."

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From This Author Joe Lombardi

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