‘Pilate’ on Broadway
A one act play, written by Mark Allen Eaton, directed by Chuck Goodin. Performed at The Salvation Army Theatre 315, 315 W. 47th Street, New York, N.Y. Produced by The Salvation Army, USA Eastern Territorial Arts Ministries Bureau, West Nyack, N.Y., Carol Jaudes, director.
“Pilate,” performed in the heart of New York’s theater district, successfully rendered a surreal and imaginative portrayal of three lives, intertwined in a most unusual triangle of human and divine love. Their complicated relationship culminated with the crucifixion and resurrection of a “rogue rabbi,” and the unlikely spiritual transformations of a “new governor” and his “inquisitive wife.”
Prior to seeing the production, I had asked myself, What new plot twist can this familiar story reveal?
However, from the first scene, set at the Salvation Army’s intimate, state–of–the–art Theatre 315, I realized I would see this Jesus uniquely influence a husband and wife.
Like a metaphor to the story, the theater’s small stage seemed cavernous. Two Roman columns appeared monumental on this Broadway–inspired set. Light, sound, and prop design captured my imagination. Writer Mark Allen’s clever dialogue was laced with colorful 21st century idioms and innuendos.
Pontius Pilate (Ian Evans), is appointed by Tiberius Caesar (Brad Cain) to serve as governor of Judea. As Pilate attempts to manage a political landscape and quell Jewish leaders, his wife Claudia (Kathryn Higgins), becomes transfixed by the rabbi (Kyle Higgins, as Jesus).
Ian Evans and Kathryn Higgins were mesmeric. For a person who is mentioned only once in the Bible, Higgins created an unforgettable Claudia. She is tortured by the absence of her husband’s attention while haunted by the presence of this mysterious Jesus.
As Christ’s influence wedges deeper, the couple’s beliefs about love, faith, and prestige are shattered by an inescapable truth; Jesus is much more than a rabbi—He is the Son of God.
Supporting actors played powerful roles. Erin Morgan was particularly striking as Death, underscored by her Goth–styled makeup, black and crimson costume, eerie silence, and intimidating gaze.
Margaret, Pilate’s secretary, (Jasmin Gauguin) sported a decidedly corporate look as she efficiently managed the governor’s office. Actors in the crowd (Jonathon Shaffstall, Heather Nataluk, Scott Martel, Matt McConnell, Shante Wong, Olivia Renkel, and Sam Lloyd) added credibility to every scene. Several actors (Shaffstall, Nataluk, Martel, and McConnell) played multiple roles.
Modern touches such as Pilate’s business suits and Claudia’s furs, suggested that this ancient tale of political corruption and cultural oppression still plays on today’s real–life stage.
Most striking was the finale, when the failings of human affection were salvaged by God’s marvelous love. In a vivid nightmare, Claudia finally sees the spiritual realm and the forces of heaven and hell.
After Christ’s death and ressurection, He gently touches Pilate’s bloody hands in a gesture of forgiveness. Later, Claudia discreetly joins a gathering of Christians in a marketplace to hear more about Jesus.
I found “Pilate,” directed by Chuck Goodin, to be a titillating study of a triangle with Christ at its pinnacle. Like many couples in today’s world, Pontius and Claudia pursue big dreams, try to love each other, but fail. Jesus then steps in and loves them both—unconditionally.
If this production takes the stage again, be sure to see it.
— Warren L. Maye