note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Carl A. Rossi
Urban VI … Jeremy Wang-Iverson
Boniface IX … Christopher Walters
Caligula … Richard Arum
Benedict XIII … Jonathan May
Gregory XII … Evan Weinberg
Alexander V … T. J. Derham
Martin … Taylor Shann
Should Boston Theatre Works ever revive its delightful production of MOLLY’S DREAM and need another one-acter with “edge” to round off the evening, I recommend Jeremy Goldstein’s equally delightful POPE AND ANTI-POPE, which played for a few performances at the BCA --- together, they’d be two quirky peas in a pod.
POPE AND ANTI-POPE is historical truth spun around like a plate on a stick: Urban VI, the newly-elected Pope in Rome (14th century), is shocked to discover that the French have defiantly elected a Pope of their own in Avignon --- Clement VII, who believes himself to be the Roman Emperor Caligula. Thus begins a chain of letters, where each Pope repeatedly requests that the other step down, and the fun begins: Urban is a prig, seething in his white cassock and skullcap; Clement is a Mamet slob in an Italian t-shirt; their back-and-forth banter are beautifully orchestrated --- piccolo and trombone. Their scribes become the next Popes in line --- Boniface IX and Benedict XIII; they are soon joined by three future Popes thanks to Mr. Goldstein’s clever condensing of time; Murder and Meyham become the order of the day --- and it’s plausible enough to be true, too.
Mr. Goldstein breezily directed an enjoyable, shtick-filled cast, but the multiple blackouts threw pacing to the winds --- fade ins and outs would have been better. Richard Arum, the thuggish yet seductive Clement, and rubber-faced Jonathan May as his bend-over scribe, were more than funny --- they were VERY funny.
A shorter piece, THE CONFESSION OF EMMANUEL, about a young Jew seeking mutual confession from the priest who listens in, showed Mr. Goldstein in a serious vein --- it’s good to see that he can switch from sketch to play mode where required. In this case, though, I preferred the sketch and, again, would love to see POPE AND ANTI-POPE paired with MOLLY’S DREAM, should Boston Theatre Works bring its sleeping beauty back again.