SAINT JOAN, BETRAYED by Mary Tuomanen and Aaron Cromie is everything theatre should be: imaginative, inspirational, intimate. Through the combined forces of this unstoppable pair, the life and inevitable demise of Joan of Arc is made into something more than just a tale for the history books: it’s reconfigured into a pertinent and poignant piece about our own personal beliefs and those we would charge into battle for.
The play begins as all good plays should: a humid, barren, black box and a toy theatre stacked upon battered and bruised suitcases. A clean slate surrounded by an electric air of potential. Cromie (Director, Designer, and Performer) begins the show with a “toy theatre triptych;” three, small shows chronicling the lives of Joan of Arc’s spectral support staff: Saint Catherine, Saint Margaret, and the Archangel Michael. The stories and their execution are personal and relaxed. The means of telling each story (toy theatre for Saint Catherine, a cranked parchment of simplistic and haunting designs for Saint Margaret, and a quasi-pop-up book for Michael) were beautifully crafted and expertly realized. The stories were touching, poignant, simplistic, and easy to digest, though sometimes a bit too casual in their delivery. I fully believe they deserved the weight and respect of the piece as a whole, and sometimes felt a bit too pedestrian.
Tuomanen is a magnificent performer and story teller. As the innocent, valiant, and heroic Joan, Tuomanen radiates eloquence and strength. Speaking in French, Joan is every bit the Joan of Arc I expected her to be and then some. Portraying several different roles, Tuomanen embodies not only Joan of Arc, but a hesitant Dauphin, a narrow-minded Bishop, a swarthy general, and a fresh-faced soldier. In doing so, in becoming the voice of the French country folk, the hesitant royalty, and the even more hesitant religion, Joan becomes each and every one of us. Her purity, her fire, her drive can be found in all of the characters and in every one of us.
The man who ultimately condemns the saint states that, “God does not put the fate of the world into the hands of little girls.” But this play reminds us that it can; that the fate of the world, of our futures, is our responsibility. We just have to believe in it and do something about it. I can’t thank this production enough for reminding me of that.
There are limited tickets and shows available – so act fast! For tickets and/or more information: http://fringearts.ticketleap.com/saint-joan-betrayed/ Performances are held at Theatre Exile, 1340 South 13th Street, Philadelphia.
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