Two weekends ago we saw Passion Play at the Forum Theater. We rather enjoyed it, but we'll keep the review brief as we didn't write it up in time; it went off tonight.
Still, the Forum Theatre once again delivered on this one. We were drawn in because between the two of us we'd seen two of Sarah Ruhl's prior plays: Dead Man's Cell Phone and Eurydice.
The setup is straightforward and effective: three Passion Plays in three different locations - Elizabethan England as Catholics come under increasing pressure, 1930s Germany, and South Dakota in the late 70s through the 80s. Tonya Bechman plays a pivotal leader in each case, a role that manages to be dark, absurd, and effective.
If you don't know the term, the Passion Play is a bit of religious theater, often performed in a church, depicting the last days of Jesus and sometimes more than that. There's continuity between actors and roles across the eras, although the sibling, friend, and lover relationships are scrambled with each new era.
For us the standout performances were Jon Hudson Odom as Pilate and Megan Graves as the Village Fool/Violet. Each of the three acts works well, but in these characters the play really shines as the third act ties together what's come before and gives honest accounting of what has and hasn't changed between the eras. The finale was earned and plays with Jesus' motif of staying awake for the coming of the Kingdom in a way that I found insightful.