‘Murder in the Cathedral’
In which I abuse my position with Commonweal to promote a well-reviewed, attractively priced performance of T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral at my parish in Brooklyn.
Jason Zinoman praised the show in Saturday’s New York Times, and I can’t disagree with his judgment:
The director, Alec Duffy, smartly uses his vast, upside-down boat-shaped space lighted by golden candle flames to create an atmosphere that is as authentic as it is otherworldly. What stands out most is the grand scale of the nearly 100-year-old Church of St. Joseph — no theater has ceilings this high — and the echoing boom of the actors’ voices gives the poetry a lift. While speaking clearly and with purpose, the fine cast underplays its passion, wisely, because the acoustics turn a whisper into a baritone-voiced song. A choir of 15 women adds lush vocals accompanied by a score (including organ) by Dave Malloy, who composed music for “Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage,” a recently performed thrashing rock version of the epic poem…. The almost uncanny quality [of the space] captures the sense of standing in awe of something ineffably vast but that still speaks to you. In that way, the space really serves, and perhaps deepens, the play.
As Eliot himself admitted, the play has flaws. Still, Zinoman is right: the space, the staging, the acting, and especially the superb, transporting original music (in addition to the electric organ, there’s a double bass and a couple of horns) help the medicine go down. All in all, well worth the $10 suggested ticket price (but if you can’t swing that suggestion, they’ll take what you can give at the door–even if it’s nothing).