When Reality Is More Interesting Than Fiction
|Prop Thtr presents|
|Debris of the Prophet|
|Written by Paul Carr
Directed by Stefan Brun and Scott Vehill
at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston (map)
through October 10 | tickets: $15 | more info
Reviewed by Keith Ecker
Socio-politically, we are going through some pretty crazy times. If you read the papers, you’ll know there’s a virtual Holy War being waged right now between religious fundamentalists. Bitter conflicts, such as protests over the building of a mosque near Ground Zero and the threat by a Florida pastor to burn a pile of Korans, exemplify this mounting tension.
This rabid passion makes for great drama. And this drama has its share of thespians, from the aforementioned pastor Terry Jones to political pundits like Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann. You’d think with such characters and tension, these real-life tales of religious zealousness would translate with ease to the stage.
Unfortunately, Prop Theatre’s Debris of the Prophet fails to facilitate this transition from reality to fantasy in nearly every way possible. Written by Paul Carr, the play has as much action as a college lecture and no character development beyond establishing trite archetypes. Throw in the fact that the whole thing is bursting with self-importance and you have one extremely unpolished production.
Debris of the Prophet concerns a political cartoonist simply named Bob (Rick Edward Reardon). Bob’s editor (Mark Kollar) has given him the opportunity to draw a series of religious-themed political cartoons to help attract readership. The idea is that controversial cartoons about religion will incite people, for better or worse, to pick up the paper. Unfortunately, Bob’s a little too skilled in striking the nerves of Muslims, Jews and Christians. What results is a mass protest in front of the news building, which eventually leads to violence and destruction.
The second act takes a dramatic turn into the realm of pure fantasy. Bob is sucked inside one of his own political cartoons where he encounters the physical embodiments of the three major religions. The three religions debate whether or not to kill Bob as punishment for his blasphemy.
Debris of the Prophet is practically devoid of plot. Very little really happens throughout the course of the play. In fact, the first act is composed of two redundant scenes that stretch on for way too long, while the second act amounts to a long-winded diatribe on the perils of religion and the importance of free speech.
In addition, there is almost no energy put into character development. We know very little about Bob other than he’s a cartoonist, and, thanks to a very fleeting and forced mention, his wife died of cancer. It soon becomes obvious that he is merely a two-dimensional prop that Carr uses to convey his thoughts on politics and religion.
None of this is helped by Stefan Brun and Scott Vehill’s lazy direction. A news reporter (Shalaka Kulkarni), whose accounts of unrest and destruction punctuate the play’s scenes, unconvincingly stands and ducks from unseen gunfire in front of the darkened stage. This gave me no sense of the reporter’s environment or the actual chaos ravaging the city, save for a few gunfire sound effects. In addition, characters rarely move from their marks and almost never cross the center point of the stage. What you end up with is all talk and no movement.
The only reason I didn’t give this play one star is because I can see this same script, with ample revisions, working for a 20-minute one act. The concept of a political cartoonist who gets sucked into his own controversial creation is rife with opportunity. However, as a full-length play, the novelty quickly wears off.
Debris of the Prophet starts off weak and ends up trudging across the finish line. For a show inspired by fascinating events, it’s surprising just how boring it is. If you really want to see a good socio-political drama unfold, just turn on the evening news.