Tuesday, November 06, 2012

"Atheist's Paradise", at Woolly Mammoth in DC, combines college, football, and a little cosmology


Sunday night (Nov. 4), I attended a performance of the play “Atheist’s Paradise”, by Bill Goodman, performed by “The Edge of the Universe Players 2”, at the Melton Rehearsal Hall at the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company in downtown Washington DC. This hall is a small stage downstairs in the theater property. The performance was directed by Megan Behm.  The small space was nearly sold out Sunday night.
   
The play is set in a small private college in the Midwest.  The stage props were simple and pretty much remained the same during the performance:  a desk, and a college seal.

Nick Torres plays “Doc”, a football coach who would rather spend his time helping favorite students learn critical thinking in areas of philosophy, especially in the ability to question the foundations of religion. The students are Sheila (Rebecca Phillips) and Bob (Victor Maldonado).  In one sequence in the first act, “Doc” gives Sheila a flying lesson (just by pantomime, without special stage props).  I actually took such a lesson myself once at Redbird Airport in Dallas in 1982.

The university president (Claude Stark) wants Doc to give up his philosophy sideshow and spend all of his efforts on football, and wants to win so badly that he pressures Doc to play an injured player.  Under pressure, Doc has a heart attack, and in the epilogue, he finds out that God (or the Judge), Jan Forbes) is not very pleased with his own questioning of faith and orderly authority.  I thought about the end of Clive Barker’s novel “Imajica”, where Man defeats God – but not here.

The website, which plays the intense chamber music score (with a horn part), is here.  The performance group also has a site, here

The notes don’t name the music composer; I’d like to know who that is.

The playwright says that the capacity of the leader to influence public op inion is important in the play, as is his caretaking of the next generation, in his own way.

Here is an interview with the director:


Her comments about the purpose of college reminds me of the professor in the WB series "Jack and Bobby". 
  
To the extent that the play touches on cosmology, it’s interesting for me to compare it to my own novel and screenplay treatments, which I probably best described on a posting on the “BillBoushka” blog on April 6, 2012.  In my novel, a character “Bill” experiences his temporary “rebirth” carried in the body of an angel (a young man and college student Sal, more self-assured than  Bob in this play), but then goes back to becoming his own person, as he have learned that the angels running the space colony and “Academy” back on Earth are fallible and not immune to entropy after all.  This play made me go back and rethink all of my own plotting. 

I guess this play is a little test of faith. 

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