Review: MOSES at Theater J

A world première; an excellent play

By: Dec. 05, 2023
Review: MOSES at Theater J

The title character of Michele Lowe's 90 minute, one-man play, full name Moses Schneider, experiences a literal holocaust, not just a signal fire like that of the Biblical Moses. He then experiences a spiritual journey like the hero of Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus (The Tailor, Re-tailored) which takes him through a loss of faith, a period of indifference when he can't quite remember why he is both numb and grief-stricken, to a regaining of the possibility of peace. (Schneider is the German word for "tailor.") Moses need not entertain (must all theatre only do that?); instead, this superb play affirms the everlasting nature of human endurance and of love's power.

Grant Harrison makes his Theater J debut with great skill and humble, indeed, humbling emotional generosity. For an hour and a half, he re-lives what Moses Schneider and his family went through while describing what is happening to him in the aftermath. He re-tells Moses' dreams and often voices the many characters Moses converses with along his restless journey from New York, through Massachusetts, and back to New York City: a tattoo artist, the denizen of a deserted synagogue, his father, family friends, a woman named Julie with whom he lives for a while, the caretaker of a cemetery, God. Moses Schneider dares to ask whether God ever makes a mistake and wonders how anyone knows what to believe. Sometimes Lowe writes him as a narrator; other times he speaks in first person. Whatever Lowe creates, Harrison reveals. Originating the role of Moses Schneider will be a feather in this actor's cap for the rest of his career. Omayn.

Jesse W. Belsky's lighting design complements the story and the many moods of Moses Schneider; it's creepy when he's dreaming and downright frosty when he's out of gas during a New England blizzard. Kelly Colburn's projections are helpful with snowy roads and fires but often present indecipherable abstract images which do not contribute. Likewise, what Moses wears seems like what a grad student at Penn State wears on campus in January or what an actor in DC wears to rehearsal in December. These small false moves could have been averted by director Johanna Gruenhut, but on the other hand, she wisely set the production on a nearly bare stage and supported Grant Harrison's every choice, both of which are much more important than his shoes and flannel shirt. The sound design by Tosin Olufolabi subtly supports Harrison with quiet, environmental clues.

World premières of great plays don't happen every season in Washington; Moses runs through December 24.

(Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography)


 


 


 


 


 




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