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Friday, March 26, 2010

Play trailers: Prophets at Georgia Shakespeare

It's hard to imagine anyone watching Brad Sherrill's Prophets, currently in its world premiere run at Georgia Shakespeare, without being moved by the actor's connection to the text. I attended opening night, and found that Sherrill doesn't so much recite major excerpts from the Old Testament prophetic writings as exult in them. He clearly finds the words, and the meaning behind the words, a transcendent experience, and you don't have to share his religious beliefs to be impressed by his performance. Sherrill loosely structures Prophets as a courtroom argument enumerating man's offenses against God (as well as the benefits of the deity's love), and when God "takes the stand," Sherrill superbly plays the deity as a passionate parent who expresses disappointment in humankind more in sorrow than in anger.

While Sherrill's The Gospel of John benefited from the narrative momentum of Jesus's life story, Prophets's plotlessness makes more challenging viewing, although Vincent Murphy's direction keeps Sherrill in near-constant motion and covers a wide spectrum of emotions and intents. Prophets' multimedia effects turn out to be a well-intended misfire, with extended montages, projected on a large screen, that make the connections between modern life and Old Testament concerns a little too obvious. When the imagery grows apocalyptic, it looks like a commercial for a new book in the Left Behind series. Clearly an enormous amount of work went into the clips, but they turn out to be too long and too on-the-nose. The Youtube clip conveys the effectiveness of Sherrill's performance and hints at the excesses of the play's video aspect.

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