Review by Karen Topham, American Theatre Critics Association member; photo by Suzanne Plunkett.
I found a cartoon on Facebook this evening. In the top panel, labeled “Reality 50 Years Ago,” a Democrat and a R
The Man Who Was Thursday, adapted from a satirical novel by GK Chesterton by Bilal Dardai of the Lifeline Artistic Ensemble, is a brisk and silly play that trades in misperception and lies. It takes place, for the most part, in pre-WWI England during a time when the fear of the day was not immigrants or transgender folk but anarchists, who, despising political order and ready to assassinate leaders and bomb plazas, at least were deserving of that fear. It begins in a London park, where Lucian Gregory (Cory Hardin), a local poet and self-proclaimed verbal anarchist, is reciting his lines to general acclaim. Another poet, Gabriel Syme (Eduardo Xavier Curley-Carrillo), enters the park and quickly gets the best of Gregory. After the crowd disperses, Gregory feels the need to redeem himself and offers to show Syme a dark secret: he actually is a part of a secret society of anarchists with plans to cause real destruction, a society run by a cabal of seven leaders with codenames of the days of the week. In fact, Gregory reveals, his section is meeting tonight to elect a new “Thursday” to replace their old council member who has passed away. In no time, Syme (who is secretly a recent recruit to the Scotland Yard anti-anarchist squad) tricks them all into making him the next Thursday, and it’s off to the races.
At the council, which is run by a mysterious man named Sunday (Allison Cain), Syme almost immediately witnesses the outing of another police infiltrator, Tuesday (Christopher M. Walsh), who is allowed to leave because Sunday believes that the threat of a gruesome death works better than the actual death for control. Syme is also introduced to the other members of the council: Monday (Marsha Harman), the secretary; a frightening Saturday in great steampunk glasses (Jen Ellison); Wednesday (Corrbette Pasko), a French Marquis who is an expert at swordplay as well as blowing things up; and a German professor with a huge beard who takes the role of Friday (Linsey Falls) but quickly is revealed to be something other than what he claims to be. Lies and false identities abound in this play, and even though the plot is entirely predictable it is great fun watching it play out. Dardai’s script keeps Chesterton’s humor intact, and the high-quality ensemble (which also features Sonia Goldberg and Oly Oxinfry) does the rest, with the aid of a solid makeup crew.
Director Jess Hutchinson retains tight control over all of the strings in this intentionally over the top piece, wringing some excellent performances out of her ensemble, many of whom play multiple roles, and keeping the pace quick and alive. Christopher Kriz provides original music and excellent sound design, and Eric Watkins has great fun lighting Lizzie Bracken’s two-story set. (One long “underground” scene is lit entirely by a tiny flame like a cigarette lighter. In another scene, in sharp contrast, the false proscenium lights up like the French flag.)
At a time when truth and reality are being challenged on a near daily basis by our politicians, when we have leaders who intentionally lie to us and mislead us in obvious
The Man Who Was