Presented by Apollinaire Theatre Company
By Carol Ann Duffy
Directed by Dale J. Young
Review by Polly Goss
(Chelsea, MA) Originally a 15th century Morality Play, British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s rewriting of Everyman holds the mirror up to our 21st century consumer-driven society…and the view isn’t pretty. Everyman was an ambitious undertaking for the Apollinaire Theatre Company and at points the script demands a larger stage and company than the Chelsea Theatre Works provides.
Armando Rivera (Everyman) carries the audience with great conviction on his spiritual journey through purgatory. Everyman is overseen by the watchful cleaner, God/Good Deeds (Ann Carpenter) and the Metistophelses-esque Death (Julee Antonellis), who brings Duffy’s characteristic dark humour to life on stage. Duffy’s writing is at it’s best in Everyman, as she intriguingly reframes this 15th century text into a cautionary tale against 21st century consumer culture.
The play opens with a brilliantly choreographed scene of Everyman’s birthday party, Everyman’s friends and ex-girlfriends prowl around him echoing his ominous rap verse,“What’s God Like? You’re God Like”. The scene expertly sets the tone for the strange fusion of modern culture and Bunyanesque allegory within the play. Christopher Bocchiaro’s lighting design, Lee Schuna’s sound design, Danielle Fauteux Jacques’ and Marc Poirier’s set design add to the hallucinogenic nature of the performance. Rivera is excellent as the self-absorbed Everyman, who perceives himself as “God-like”, before Death gives him a sharp wake up call. Everyman’s potency relies on Everyman’s relatability, Rivera performance hits the mark and leaves the audience cringing as we recognise our own flaws within Everyman.
Antonellis and Rivera have great chemistry on stage and Everyman’s battles with Death are the highlight of the performance. Antonellis as the Elvis-esque Death, brought the comedy to the performance. Playing Death as the sadistic clown, the truth-teller and ultimately Everyman’s redeemer. It is only when Everyman faces Death that he is able to find meaning in his life. Duffy is characterised for her sardonic wit and there were some comedic moments in the script that could have been better punctuated. Without the ironical humor, the play could be seen to champion the 15th century Church propaganda from the original version. Good Deed’s last lines of the play “Religion is a man-made thing it too will pass” defy this and underline Duffy’s message that humanity should not depend upon religion for salvation.
Overall The Appolinaire Theatre’s production is exciting, thought-provoking and well-worth a watch. This is Carol Ann Duffy at her best. Everyman is a script that could stand the test of time, and I would recommend for anyone to go see it now, whilst it is still piping hot and scorchingly relevant.
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