‘Pity without comfort’.
Review By Terence Boyle
(l to r): Rainee Denham, Judy Lea Steele, Susie Griffith, Barbara Roeder Harris
Photo by Tom McGrath TCMcG Photography
The wonder of words, is that when they are used correctly, they can stir our hearts and disturb our minds. J.B is a gem of a play, a diamond so hard it can crush the soul with its philosophical complexity, yet shaped by the skilled playwright can shine radiantly. Archibald MacLeish’s drama is without doubt a masterpiece that takes the biblical story of Job and refashions it to become a modern quest to believe despite inexplicable suffering. MacLeish’s J.B is a beautiful cut diamond. Each segment sparkles with wit, charm, and poetic soul.
I found myself in awe of such a dynamic rendition of a biblical story that depicts God as an Almighty bully. Job is tested beyond human endurance and then berated for asking questions. Why? When the fundamental disposition of humanity is to question. Why are to be silent? We are made to be curious. So what is achieved by this bullying tactic of refusing to answer questions? Nothing. Other than to prove there are things that are inexplicable for which we have not answers.
Director, Brian Pastor (Artistic director of Promethean theatre Ensemble) makes a daring move to use an all-female cast, over the age of 55, and this brave choice is wonderfully rewarded by magnificent performances. This band of women demonstrate the strength and fragility of the human bond to faith, whether it is realized in human compassion or in spirituality. Together, they conjure up the Greek chorus, in the form of Job’s comforters, they play within the play, masking and unmasking our true selves, and in the process show us how very talented they are.
Moving from one perspective to another, walking the tightrope between faith and blasphemy, they bring a powerful work alive. I loved this drama. The language alone is powerful, but the decision to use ‘women of a certain age was genius. Pastor is a director par excellence. He knows how to use a small space and create within it a sense of grandeur.
The play’s conclusion is difficult. It cannot resolve what cannot be resolved. The questions remained unanswered. Even in the original story, we are not comforted by any clear message. What MacLeish chooses to do, is to remind us that mercy is the one thing that is left to us in the face of inscrutable suffering. An act of mercy speaks volumes and restores our faith in humankind.
Go see a play that will make you wonder at the gift of being human.
buy tix here!
Fridays at 7:30PM
Saturdays at 7:30PM
Sundays at 3:00PM
(2 Special Monday performances 11/27 & 12/4)
1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
Chicago, IL 60660