In 1656, Amsterdam has given special asylum to the Jewish community, but with one caveat: no Jew may speak of religion to any local resident. Baruch Spinoza’s radical beliefs on God and religion draw him into a riveting trial which irrevocably challenges Western thought.
Deepest bows to Stage West in Fort Worth for continuing a tradition of producing plays that challenge an audience’s intellect as well as entertain them.
Alexandra Bonifield, criticalrant.com
runs Jan 5 through Jan 29
Fridays & Saturdays 8:00
Abraham Van Valkenburgh - Russell Dean Schultz*
Saul Levi Mortera - Jim Covault*
Gaspar Rodrigues Ben Israel - Michael Corolla*
Baruch de Spinoza -Garret Storms**
Simon de Vries - Samuel West Swanson**
Clara van den Enden - Barrett Nash
Rebekah de Spinoza - Angela Owen**
* Member, Actors Equity Association ** Equity Membership Candidate
Director - Jerry Russell
Production Stage Manager - Peggy Kruger-O'Brien
Technical Director - Jason Domm
Set Design - Jim Covault
Costume Design - Michael Robinson & Dallas Costume Shoppe
Lighting Design - Michael O'Brien
Props/Set Decor - Lynn Lovett
It’s 1656, and a large number of Portuguese Jews have found asylum in Amsterdam from the Inquisition. There’s just one caveat: no Jew may speak of religion to the Christian Dutch. All seems to be in harmony—until Baruch de Spinoza starts airing some pretty radical ideas about God, and it comes to the attention of the city regents, who are finding that their tolerance has limits, as Spinoza is spreading his questions and theories among the young. They put it to the leaders of the Jewish congregation: get him to recant, or excommunicate him—or we will take action. And so he is summoned before leaders of both communities to stand trial. Playwright David Ives acknowledges that nothing is known about these proceedings, only that they occurred and that Spinoza was cast out. But out of what is known, he has created a fascinating sort of courtroom drama. And he gives us a central character who is brilliant and passionate, gentle and self-deprecating, whose ideas would have a major impact upon Western thought. The result is a piece which transcends dry intellectualism, sparkling with tension, ideas, and Ivesian wit.
David Ives was born in Chicago in 1950. He received an MFA in Playwriting from Yale, and is perhaps best known for his evenings of one-act comedies All in the Timing (winner of the Outer Critics Circle Playwriting Award) and Time Flies. Other plays include Venus in Fur, The Liar (adapted from Corneille’s comedy and winner of the Charles MacArthur Best Play Award), Is He Dead? (adapted from Mark Twain), The Heir Apparent (adapted from Regnard), Polish Joke, and New Jerusalem (winner of the Hull-Warriner Award). A former Guggenheim Fellow in playwriting, he lives in New York City.