Theater in Sketch: PEACEABLE KINGDOM (Orbiter 3)

Lion_Cathy_SimpsonI Went to see Peaceable Kingdom on May 12 (read the Phindie review), and the Germantown Friends School Choir came to sing the overture. The selections from Randall Thompson’s The Peaceable Kingdom are “Ye Shall Follow,” “The Noise of the Multitude,” “The Paper Reeds by the Brooks,” and “Have Ye Not Known.” The characters come out of the darkness, and the shadow puppets on the back wall show a spirituality in the lighting design by Maria Shaplin. The trees come out on stage with their own personality. Later on Chief Tamanend, played by Carla-Rae, and William Penn, played by Alexandra King, mention how the trees can speak to us. The Native American chief Tamanend welcomes William Penn to the tribe. The tradition of sharing a pipe is a sign of friendship. 

Chieftamamend_CarlaRae_Williampenn_AlexandraKingThe layers of nature and spirituality in the play is evident in the interchangeable dialogues between animals and humans. The differences between Chief Tamanend and William Penn are distinguished by their mannerisms. The tribal design of two figures on a hunting belt is a gift to their new Quaker friend, WIlliam Penn. This is one way two cultures intersect. For the Native American, the land has a spiritual connection with the body. This idea of peace among the actors surround the lion, played by Cathy Simpson. The lion is the constant reminder of sorrow, and her ironic response to a moment of self-awareness is a theme which casts a shadow over a colorful group of characters. These qualities that personify the animals shows meaning in the interactions between two cultures.

Leopard_ChrisDavis_Lamb1_Stephanie N.WaltersThe two lambs, played by Eliana Fabiyi and Stephanie N. Walters, show how different and similar we are from one another. The confident lamb, Stephanie N. Walters, dares to put her butt up in the air in front of the leopard, played by Chris Davis. The leopard is smoking the pipe and watches the lamb dance. He encourages this energy while he exerts no energy at all. That is when the lion comes forward to serve as a reminder of an unforgiving reality. Later in the play a second lamb, played by Eliana Fabiyi, is overcome by the possibility that life is meaningless. The lambs relationship showed a loss of trust.

Nativesquirrel_ThomasChoinaky_invasivesquirrel_JohnJarboeThe two squirrels share a nest together and the native squirrel allows the more invasive squirrel to make himself at home. The invasive squirrel, played by John Jarboe, had a moment of reflection in the nest. In my opinion, Jarboe’s monologue about his life as a squirrel is cleverly directed at the old brick wall of the Christ Neighborhood House. It is a separation from the designated set and evokes a sense of reality. Back to the imagined world some deranged behavior from the native squirrel, played by Thomas Choinacky, changes the mood of the play. This is how the trees speak to us, and coincidentally we could hear an ambulance on the street below and the siren adds to the ambience. An example of two squirrels nesting shows illegitimate aggression in nature. Relating back to human nature is a gathering called a fire circle where this pent up aggression can be released. One of the animals doesn’t show up to the fire circle and the leopard looks like he is going to eat him. It is not simply the uncontrollable tendencies that determined this predator-prey relationship. The fire circle is a formal meeting for God, spirits, animals, and humans to unite. 

the_fire_circle_trees_chiefTamamend_lamb1_lamb2It is a more unimaginable natural world illustrated by the performance of various members of the animal kingdom, humans being one of them. Peaceable Kingdom by Mary Tuomanen shows the unity of animals and humans while portraying destructive powers of our behaviors. After the show on May 12, Mignon Adams and Andrew Adams spoke during the post-show talk about coming to a consensus in a group. We talked about one of the Quaker meeting’s decisions while Occupy Philadelphia was happening and how they would allow campers onto sacred ground. In the play, the costume design by Rebecca Kanach makes the actors look like stuffed animals and action figures for a more positive change, a forgiving attitude on death, and a plasticity. The director, Rebecca Wright, brought out the cute and cuddly demeanor of the cast while still driving home a deep dark message

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