Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nathan the Wise

In the Pearl Theater's second production of the season, and chosen for the holiday season, this month's performance was an adaptation of Nathan the Wise. While not high falootin' theater, they put on classic productions told straight from the heart.

Nathan the Wise is an allegorical tale about religious tolerance with a dash of major coincidence, not dissimilar to the plot structure of their most recent production of the Oedipus Cycle. Nathan, the Jew, and rich merchant, is living in a Muslim Jerusalem run by Saladin. While Nathan is on the road, his house burns and his only daughter is saved by a Christian soldier who was recently saved (as in purposefully not killed) by Saladin due to how much he looks like Saladin's long dead brother.

The soldier and daughter fall in love, when Nathan realizes that in fact they are, ta da! brother and sister. And not only that, the soldier is indeed Saladin's brother's son (and thus his nephew), making Nathan's daughter his Muslim niece, when all along she thought she was a Jew, but everybody else who knew that she wasn't Nathan's real daughter, though she was a Christian.

Can you follow that? Despite the silly plot, it was a pleasant experience with some good humour, some thoughtful points about religion, decent acting and an overall good deal for $25.

The play was written in 1779, but the programme made reference to the fact that it was the first play that Hitler banned and the first produced in Germany after the war was over.

For some reason the Pearl attracts an average age of about 96, so we are by far the youngest in the audience, which means the line for the bathroom is long and slow, and the whispered repeating of each line to deaf husbands echo softly throughout the production. But nonetheless, I enjoy being able to stroll over to the theater15 minutes before it starts, and returning home within a few minutes of the last curtain call.

Our season ticket status bought us front row center seats, which means our feet are on the stage and we can see perhaps too much detail including the fake beards and shaking hands. For some reason, for the first ten minutes of each of the plays I've seen there I've become mesmerized with the shoes of the actors, which are, of course, modern. But since the 2 plays have both been set in ancient times I have found it distracting. Luckily, the plots haven't been so intricate that I can't catch up after the shoe daydreams end.

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