Review: The Gospel According to Mark and Subway Stations of the Cross

by Lynn on March 26, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

The Young Centre, Distillery District, Toronto, Ont.

From the St. James Bible (16ll)
Directed by Albert Schultz
Starring Kenneth Welsh.

A lively, clear reading of the story of Christ as seen from the point of view of Mark.

Comment. That’s right, actor Kenneth Welsh read the whole Gospel According to Mark. An illuminated lectern is centre stage. In the middle of it is a large edition of the St. James Bible, open at the beginning of the Gospel According to Mark.

The lights dim and we hear Kenneth Welsh before we see him. He recites the opening lines of the Gospel as the lights rise and he comes into the light from the side. He wears a Middle Eastern (Turkish?) round head covering, a sweater, tan corduroy pants and sandals with socks. For much of the beginning he recites from memory with the occasional look at the book. He says in his program note that he is determined to memorize the whole thing one day. I’m sure he will do it too.

He reads of Christ’s life with passion, verve, energy, clarity and true love of the words and the story. It is so interesting to see how truly wise Jesus was and how dumb the Disciples seemed to be. Jesus would explain his reasons for doing things, and yet the Disciples didn’t wise up to his thinking and never knew how to handle similar situations themselves after that.

Welsh is a fine actor but even a fine actor needs a director. One can sense the delicate hand of Albert Schultz in this endeavour. Welsh holds us captivate for 90 minutes.

Welsh got the inspiration to do a public reading of The Gospel According to Mark when he was noting the one year anniversary of a serious injury he had to his foot. For some reason he felt he needed to read that section of the New Testament after he realized it was the anniversary. He then decided to do a public reading of it. The time of course is fortuitous—Easter is fast approaching.

I look forward to other readings by other actors to reflect the various other religious affiliations of the Soulpepper audience: Readings from the Old Testament, especially Genesis (my favourite and so funny—all those “begats” all that family angst, all the commands from on high and the reaction, “You want me to do what to my son?); of course the Qur’an should be in there; the teachings of Buddha. Etc.

Soulpepper Presents:

Run: March 22 – March 29, 2015
Running Time: 90 minutes.

Subway Stations of the Cross.

At the Young Centre, Distillery District, Toronto, Ont.

Written and performed by Ins Choi

A self-indulgent stream of consciousness suggesting substance is there, but it’s not.

The Production. A red bench like those in the subway is illuminated centre stage. When the lights go to black we hear a rumbling sound. A voice in the dark. There is some light along the floor on the other side of a dark curtain. The tumbling voice and the light move along the curtain. There are flicks to the curtain as if something is feeling his way along. Snippets of a song. A hulking man with wild, long hair appears around the curtain, wearing a long, torn robe over what looks like pyjama bottoms. Bare feet. The toenails are black. Under the robe is a lit lamp that illuminates the feet. The figure plays the Ukulele singing “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” at a deadly slow pace. Then he sings it again with variations: “Repair ye the way of the Lord.” Then again, “Éclair ye the way of the Lord.”

Homeless? Deranged? Both? The man blows a shofar. That’s odd. The title of the show suggests the stations (images) of Christ on the day of his crucifixion (around Easter). The shofar is blown during the Jewish High Holidays in the fall. Perhaps a melding of religious symbols? Am I reaching here to make sense of this?

There is a blackout. The light from the lamp under the robe of the homeless man comes on again. The man is on the subway bench, crouched down. Between his feet is a loaf of bread. The homeless man says the word ‘bread’ then in French, then Italian (I believe) then in Hebrew. Occasionally he breaks into a Hebrew prayer and picks at the loaf of bread. Blackout.

The next illumination reveals a bottle of red wine. The man pours some of it on the bread. He brings out a plastic back from his robe—a hiding place for a cornucopia of props—puts chunks of the bread in the bag and douses it with wine. Ties it off. More riff/growling on more stream of consciousnessness musings.

There is a clever song again with the Ukulele accompaniment about the television sit-coms of the 1980s. Other times the man stares at us, his voice rumbling—he wears a head microphone that is taped down his nose for more resonance. In a tenuous connection to something religious, the man races through some of Christ’s stations and what happened there, but that does not give this piece the depth to which it aspires.

More often than not he flits from one word to the next with subtle shifting mis-connections, perhaps like:

“Ins Choi
Bok Choi
Toy boy,
No Joy,
From Ins Choi
Oy. Oy.

Comment. The title says it all. It’s a smarmy play on the words of the Stations of the Cross as it pertained to Christ. It actually has nothing to do with anything religious. From the program: “Ins Choi says that in this piece he’s ‘aiming for what a Biblical prophet like Isaiah or Ezekiel might do today.’ The character he has created dares to ask us to meditate, to slow down long enough to breathe a little deeper, be less productive and more attentive so we can hear what is calling to us.”


This rambling, unfocused, self-indulgent show does nothing of the sort. The impetus for the show Choi says in his program note, was an encounter he had with a homeless man in 2002, who talked to him for an hour. Choi then took that conversation and this show is the result. At the bow, with a show of breathtaking materialism, Choi urged us to buy the text of the play. I wonder if he’s going to split his royalties with the homeless man.

Soulpepper Presents:

Run: March 22 – March 29, 2015
Running Time: 45 minutes.

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