Posts Tagged ‘bob telson’

Performance Diary: THE GOSPEL AT COLONUS in Central Park

September 9, 2018

An old man seeking sanctuary is stopped at the border and separated from his two daughters, who are taken off to prison – especially cruel since the man is blind. The question of whether immigrants and refugees are welcome in this country was not in play when The Gospel at Colonus premiered in 1983, but it added another layer of sentiment to the beautiful 35th anniversary restaging at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park of Lee Breuer and Bob Telson’s musical mashup of Greek tragedy and an African-American church service, which had me in tears several times.

The evening was chilly and it drizzled steadily the first half of the show, but since it was the last night of a short run, the performers were real troupers. So great to hear this fantastic score again, with one killer song after another: “How Shall I See You Through My Tears?,” “Numberless Are The World’s Wonders,” “Sunlight of No Light,” “Eternal Sleep,” “Lift Him Up.” So great to see many of the original cast still working their magic (J.D. Steele, Kevin Davis, Carolyn Johnson-White); Bob Telson at the piano alongside the original musicians Sam Butler, Jr., Butch Heyward, and Leroy Clouden; the amazing Blind Boys of Alabama with a new lead singer, Jimmy Carter, in place of the late great Clarence Fountain (the first blind man to play the blind king Oedipus); Willie Rogers channeling Sam Cooke with the Legendary Soul Stirrers. A real preacher, the Reverend Dr. Earl F. Miller, played the Messenger, the role – part MC, part minister, part shadow Oedipus — first filled by Morgan Freeman, and the terrific Greta Oglesby (whom I admired as the lead in Caroline, or Change at the Guthrie Theater) played Antigone, the part memorably filled by Isabell Monk in the original production.

It’s such a strange piece, in its way, tapping the roots of theater in spiritual ceremony both conceptually and concretely. It’s a tribute to the genius of Lee Breuer that it hangs together the way it does. One of Breuer’s great gifts as a director is to empower talented performers to create performances that are authentically their own. We saw that all over the stage at the Delacorte. And the many forces (financial and administrative) that helped create this run in the park share a commitment to theater as a utopian proposition, a place to keep alive a strong, deep, inclusive vision of humanity and love. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

%d bloggers like this: