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a Drama
by Hilary MacKelden

COMPANY : New Dawn Theater [WEBSITE]
VENUE : New Dawn Theater [WEBSITE]
ID# 4453

SHOWING : April 18, 2013 - May 05, 2013



The Crucifixion of Jesus as seen through the eyes of Barabbas.

Director Sherry Ingbritsen
Gossip 1 Barbara Allen
Jesus Sean Anderson
Pilate Eric Arvidson
Bodyguard Brian Beechum
Roman Soldier 3 John Brackett
Gossip 2 Debbie Bush
Pilate's Servant Jamie Conatser
Thief Cameron Cox
Roman Soldier 1 Jay Croft
Ashkar Roger Ferrier
Temple Priest 1/Draper Leo Finocchio
Barabbas Martin Gravely
Prosperous Man Chris Hawkins
Roman Soldier 2 Paul Ingbritsen
Esther Marla Krohn
Temple Priest 2/Coin Trader Chuck Mason
Bird Seller Bruce Saarela
Gossip 3 Michelle Saarela
Bandit 2 Gary Smoot
Hannah Katie Tucker
Rebekkah Desi Vladimirova
Bandit 1 Khaled Warawra
Rachel Ramona Werner
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Not Pious and Dry
by playgoer
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Hilary MacKelden's adaptation of "Barabbas" is being given a theatrical premiere at Duluth's New Dawn Theater. It tells the story of Barabbas (Martin Gravely), who by popular acclaim was spared crucifixion when the people of Jerusalem were allowed to choose between him and Jesus (Sean Anderson). The story is somewhat condensed, and it's never really clear if Barabbas is a rebel leader with as big a following as he believes. Even with a cast of over 20, Barabbas has only two bandit buddies, and they do not have the demeanor of trusted aides to a rebel commander: one is a thug (Khaled Warawra) and one is the closest thing the show has to comic relief (Gary Smoot). True, Barabbas's cohort Ashkar (Roger Ferrier) does seem to be a warrior, but he plans to leave Barabbas' side early in the plot. Barabbas is seen as a bloodthirsty thief inexplicably loved by Rachel (Ramona Werner) and disapproved of by Rachel's mother Esther (Marla Krohn). He's not put into positions in which his standing in overall Jerusalem society would be clarified.

The story may tell of Barabbas' conversion from criminal to follower of Jesus, but it's heavy on the "criminal" side of the equation, and saves the conversion to the last few moments of the play, which are quite effective. A great deal of unpleasantness occurs, lending a somber tone to the production. This isn't a pious, dry, religious treatise placed on stage. It's a serious show, with a good amount of grit.

The large cast acquits itself well. Most of the parts aren't substantial, so all that's required of them is to appear onstage on time, then respond to and give cues to keep the action moving. They do that well, adding bits of character to keep interest. Three gossips provide parts of the narration in an entertaining manner. Three Roman soldiers, led by the stalwart Jay Croft, trigger antagonism at multiple points in the story.

Some of the characters have slightly larger roles. Katie Tucker has a moving scene as the wife of executed Ashkar. Ramona Werner has some moments of fire near the end, as she explains her devotion to Jesus. And Marla Krohn adds life to every scene, running her inn and interacting with each person in a believable, engrossing manner.

The role of Jesus isn't huge, but Sean Anderson has the look and demeanor for it. His quiet gravity works in the role. Martin Gravely, as Barabbas, speaks with a sneer and a gravelly intensity that enhances the unpleasantness of his character. He is physically right for the role, with a virile presence.

The set, built by Paul Ingbritsen, uses the full width of the wide New Dawn stage. An inn takes up stage right, with an alley beside it, painted in perspective. A jail cell takes up stage left, with the temple beside it. Various other locales are represented center stage with lights or props. The flow is good, with the only scene delays caused by the occasional need to populate the stage fully with cast members before the scene begins.

Director Sherry Ingbritsen can't have had an easy job of blocking action of so many actors on the stage. She manages to provide good sightlines throughout. She probably could have done more to fill in the gaps the playwright has placed in the narrative, but she maintains an appropriate tone that helps build the show to a satisfying conclusion. "Barabbas" is not a perfect piece of theatre, but it provides an interesting alternative to the standard Easter fare. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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