by Lynn on April 29, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

Sneak Preview Review:

At the Berkeley Street Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Jordan Tannahill
Directed by Matjash Mrozewski (Botticelli in Fire)
Estelle Shook (Sunday in Sodom)
Set and Costumes by James Lavoie
Lighting by Steve Lucas
Composition/Sound by Cameron Davis
Cast: Salvatore Antonio
Valerie Buhagiar
Nicola Correia-Damude
Stephen Jackman-Torkoff
Christopher Morris
Alon Nashman

Playwright Jordan Tannahill has taken two events, one historical, one biblical, and given them a contemporary sensibility, making them timely, relevant and compelling.

Botticelli in the Fire is about Sandro Botticelli, the Renaissance painter, hedonist and lover in 1497, during the Bonfire of the Vanities “a religious inferno of art, books and matters of sin.’ Botticelli is painting The Birth of Venus with Clarice Medici as his nude model. He is also having an affair with her and if her husband Lorenzo found out it wouldn’t end well. Botticelli is also in love/lust with his assistant, Leonardo. That last could get them both burned as ‘sodomites.’ Botticelli must make a decision: does he save his lover? His art? Himself.?

Sunday in Sodom

With this play Tannahill re-writes the story of Lot and his nameless wife. The bible story has Lot being told that God will destroy Sodom and that he and his wife must leave immediately and under no circumstances can she turn around and look at the destruction. In Tannahill’s play Lot’s wife is named Edith. She has grit and common sense. She needs it because the household is getting full. Already there is Edith and Lot’s daughter Sarah and her two kids. Her nephew Isaac calls, frantic that his father Abraham wanted to kill him because God was testing his devotion. It got as far as Abraham putting Isaac on a rock ready to do the deed when Abraham was stopped. Isaac sought protection with his Aunt Edith.

Lot is a TV watching nebbish. He’s not happy that his nephew is there, but has no qualms in inviting two American soldiers into his house, one is wounded badly. And Lot and family don’t understand the language of the soldiers. The neighbours are not happy. Matters because dangerous—this seems to be a war-torn area. Lot, Edith and the family are told to leave their house and land immediately because fighter jets are coming to destroy the village. And of course Edith is told not to look back by one of the soldiers. We know what happens but not why.

Jordan Tannahill has written two bracing, thoughtful plays that explore intriguing questions: What would you give up to save your life? When do you disobey an order? While we’re at it, what is this great preoccupation of God with unconditional devotion: Kill you son to prove your devotion to me.; to Lot’s wife, “Don’t turn around when you leave Sodom (and I’m not telling you why).

Botticelli in the Fire is an erotic look at art, love and hedonism. Tannahill beautifully illuminates the terror of power and how it’s most devastating when it’s quietly threatening.

Sunday in Sodom is a poem that slowly builds in pace and grip until the last inevitable, unavoidable moment.

Both productions are produced and directed with style and the cast in both is stellar.

Full review broadcast on CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 fm Friday morning April 29 from 9 am to 10 am.

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