Celia Wren

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.

By this author

Sympathy for the Devil

Dante’s Inferno stands on its head in the mildly amusing, candy-colored series Neighbors from Hell, the first original primetime animated entertainment from the cable channel TBS. In the fourteenth-century terza rima masterpiece, a human voyaged through the infernal region, witnessing its hierarchy of torments. By contrast, in the TBS satire—which started airing in June—devil protagonists reluctantly leave hell to live undercover in suburban America.

Faith, Tradition and the Passion Play

I cant claim to be a regular reader of Der Spiegel online, but I did stumble across this fascinating article on the uproar over the latest edition of the Passion Play, the stage extravaganza that has been staged in Oberammergau, Germany, every 10 years since the early 17th century. The play, which reenacts the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, is a cherished tradition in the village, and it attracts oodles of tourists.

Urban Studies

Because it’s co-created by David Simon, the genius behind the justly extolled crime saga The Wire, the new HBO drama Treme faces a critical test. No, not ratings: I’m talking about the blackboard test. The Wire, which ran on HBO from 2002 to 2008, boasted such an ambitious sociological vision, such rich storytelling, and such—yes, I’ll say it—Shakespearean characters that, as a New York Times Magazine cover story recently reported, universities like Duke and UC Berkeley are offering courses on the series.

The Morality of Video Games

Its not often that you hear someone compare cutting-edge militaristic video games to Ovid, but Wired Magazine columnist Clive Thompson does exactly that in this fascinating conversation aired on NPRs program On the Media (heres the transcript).

New Play about Robert F. Kennedy

L.A. Theatre Works, a California company that presents, records, broadcasts and tours old-fashioned radio-theater productions of worthy plays, has just birthed a drama about Robert F. Kennedy and the evolution of his interest in civil rights. Titled RFK: The Journey to Justice, and written by Murray Horwitz (who co-created the Broadway hit Aint Misbehavin) and Jonathan Estrin, the show made its debut about 10 days ago at the University of Notre Dames DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Tinseltown Warms to Religion?

An article in yesterday's Washington Post examined an apparent uptick in movies dealing with religion, "spirituality" and....all that kind of stuff. The reporter defines the motif rather broadly. Still, the article contains some interesting insights. (I particularly like the observation that the movie "Up in the Air" is in some ways a modern "Christmas Carol." Rather a gloomy modern "Christmas Carol," I'd say...)

Why December 25?

This interesting article from Biblical Archeology Review disputes the oft-cited hypothesis (see this pair of letters from readers in todays Washington Post, for instance) that the early Christians selected Dec.

Feeding the Multitudes

Your eyes and ears tell you that Scenes from a Parish is a documentary. So does a source that might be more reliable: PBS. Had it not been so, you might swear that this study of an urban Catholic congregation was a novel: with its absorbing and wrenching multiple storylines knit into an eloquently disturbing civic vision, James Rutenbeck’s film—airing on the PBS series Independent Lens on December 29 (check local listings)—has a scope that’s positively Zola-esque.

T.S. Eliot-Related Humor

The remnants of Hurricane Ida are lashing the East Coast, where I live. The skies have been dark, and the rain pelting, for about 48 hours. And given the recent solemnity of Veterans Day, and all the frightening and depressing developments in the news, I would like to share a little welcome highbrow humor.Follow this link to the hilarious parody of T.S. Eliot by British writer Henry Reed. Be sure to listen to Dylan Thomas's recitation of the parody (see the bottom of the page).