Business As Usual: “The Plague”

The cast of Praxis Stage’s THE PLAGUE (left to right): Dawn Davis, Danny Mourino, Steve Auger, Michael Rodriguez, and Dayenne C. Byron Walters.

Presented by Praxis Stage
After La Peste by Albert Camus
Adapted by Neil Bartlett
Directed by Daniel Boudreau

May 23 – 27, 2018
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
Boston, MA
Praxis on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

“And they answered, “Five gold tumors and five gold mice corresponding to the number of Philistine rulers, since there was one plague for both you[a] and your rulers. 5 Make images of your tumors and of your mice that are destroying the land. Give glory to Israel’s God, and perhaps He will stop oppressing you,[b] your gods, and your land.”
1 Samuel 6:4-5, Internet Bible

“”Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job” President George W. Bush in response to Michael Brown’s failure to provide basic relief services to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, 2005.

(Boston, MA) History is not taught because educators are sadists with penchants for boring their victims into pliancy. Rather, not just for that. Taught history is meant to remind each generation of what previous generations have done; how they have succeeded and, more importantly, to prevent them from similar failures. The Plague reinforces our need to learn from history now because we will repeat it. We always do.  

In An Ordinary City in an modern time before cell phones, the denizens are hit with inexplicable tragedy. First, a plague of rats. Then the poor get sick. Panic sets in when death comes for everyone regardless of income, status or class. The Plague is about humanity’s forgetfulness in response to trauma, and authority’s implausible deniability in response to emergencies.

Praxis does a good job with Bartlett’s adaptation of the script. The ensemble is committed to their monologues and the dialogue is tense. In specific, Dr. Rieux’s monologues are long and detailed. Dayenne C Byron Walters carries the drama with gravitas as stalwart Dr. Rieux.

When the audience is cast into individual storylines by Bartlett, group choreography brings them back. Whether a blocking choice by Boudreau or a stage direction from Bartlett, synchronized movement by the cast reminds the audience that plague stories have universal application. The script appeals to our mind but illness affects our bodies.

The Plague is told through first person accounts like The Laramie Project. Unlike the Laramie Project, the audience is given graphic accounts of illness and death. With one exception, these descriptions occur offstage like they would in a Greek Tragedy. Those easily disturbed by light horror should stay at home. It’s edgelord Camus’ The Plague, not Hanna Barbera’s Wacky Plague Races.

It wasn’t a performance without seams: Several actors are nervous lip-smackers. It happened often enough that it is clear that the ticks weren’t a character choice. If lip smacking is a personal pet peeve, you may have a difficult time sitting through this performance.  

At a time when modern medical science is taking its greatest leaps and bounds towards healing, Western Society still penalizes the poor. Anti-vaxxers are validated by passive mediators allowing each side to present their opinions. Flint still doesn’t have clean water. The Plague runs at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre through May 27.

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