Brad Levinson's "A Ritual of Faith," based on Catholic Church records of the kidnapping and secret baptism of Jewish children, is at its best when characters debate the theology and ritual practices of their religions.
By CARAID O'BRIEN
Throughout history, Christians have persecuted Jews in the name of religion in a dazzling array of grotesque tortures including but not limited to mass murder, false imprisonment, rape, forced conscription, ghettoization and demonification. What Catholic school student doesn't remember being cast as Jew in the annual Passion pageant shouting, "Kill him, crucify him!" at the towheaded class president standing in for Jesus?
Emerging Artist's Theater production of Brad Levinson's play "A Ritual of Faith" focuses on a lesser-known atrocity committed by the reliably anti-Semitic Catholic Church: Kidnapping Jewish children secretly baptized by Christian servants from their families. The subject matter of the play is certainly intriguing.
|A RITUAL OF FAITH|
|Company: Emerging Artists Theatre Company (EAT).|
Written by: Brad Levinson.
Directed by: Igor Goldin.
Cast: Michael Cruz, Laura Fois, Ryan Hilliard, Aaron Feldman, Marilyn Sanabria, Tibor Feldman, Marc Krinsky, Matthew Boston.
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March 2 - April 6, 2003
Inspired by over 100 accounts of the kidnapping of Jewish children in Church archives, Dr. Levinson's play tells the story of a 10-year-old boy (Aaron Feldman) living in an Italian Jewish ghetto with his family in the late 1800s. When he fell sick as a baby, his nanny (the memorable Marilyn Sanabria) sprinkled him with water and said a prayer. His subsequent kidnapping by the church was prompted by an exaggerated account of the baby's "baptism." The script would have been more dramatically compelling if the child had actually been baptized by a priest making the debate between the evil archbishop (Ryan Hillard) and the Jewish community leader (Tibor Feldman) less of a dramatic farce and more of an intriguing theological conundrum.
The production is directed by Igor Goldin in a heightened melodramatic style and indeed almost every scene in the play portrays a situation of great emotion. The script is at its most engaging when characters debate the theology and ritual practices of their respective religions. Not unlike a passion play, the roles are written as assumedly symbolic stereotypes the money-lending self-promoting leader of the Jewish community, the demonic and morally corrupt archbishop, the drunken, wife-beating goy (Marc Krinsky). For the most part, the actors embrace their individual caricatures, and Tibor Feldman brings considerable emotional depth and variance to Yakov the money-lending Jewish community leader and uncle of the kidnapped boy.
Tragedy begets tragedy and the suffering of the Jewish family portrayed in the play is endless and manifold. Their son is raised by the Church and becomes a priest (Michael Cruz). His parents are persecuted for their refusal to convert to Christianity. The conversations between husband (Matthew Boston) and wife (Laura Fois) on this subject make for another high point in the drama. Although an imperfect play, this stylized production on a subject of historical relevance makes for a thought-provoking evening of theater.
|MARCH 5, 2003|
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