The Purgatory Project Part 2

By Louis Lopardi
Directed by Louis Lopardi
Sage Theatre Company
Tribeca Playhouse
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Sheila Mart

This presentation of four separate monologs makes for surprisingly compelling theatre. The Purgatory Project, Part 2 delves into the lives led by four famous historical figures-Sigmund Freud (Myles Cohen), Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky (Shawn Scott), J. Robert Oppenheimer (David Dotterer), and Lee Harvey Oswald (Bob Bucci). The device of setting the piece in the present (more than 30 years after Oswald's death) allows the author to interpret what could be considered credible feelings and confessions on the part of each of these people about the lives they led. Naturally, we'll never know what was completely in their souls; but their actions will forever be a source of fascination.

Louis Lopardi has written so skillfully that it almost appeared that these people are talking to us in their own eras. Freud is presented as a pleasant man whose intelligence does not allow him to suffer fools gladly. So much has been written about Sigmund, that Mr. Lopardi wisely makes only an oblique reference to his sexual interpretation of dreams, a subject of obvious importance to him-dreams here being shown as more important than their sexual ramifications.

With Tchaikovsky, there is perhaps even less known about his personal life. He was a homosexual and lived at a time when there was zero tolerance for this lifestyle, especially in Russia; thus, he was ostracized from society. However, he was able to give vent to this torment and frustration through his music, notwithstanding his own doubts about his artistic abilities.

Oppenheimer, seemingly a product of a white-middle-class upbringing, was labeled early on as a "brainy snob." He was sensitive and intelligent ,and, during his school days, he suffered mental and physical abuse from his peers. But he was a scientist at heart and soon embraced the discipline of physics. After he had directed the first atom-bomb project, and was then asked to work on the hydrogen bomb, his innate sensitivity kicked in. He realized the enormity of human destruction that would result. Perhaps his retreat to science was a plea for atonement.

Oswald, on the other hand, is here presented as a patsy-who happened to have received thorough training as a secret agent. He had lived in Russia for several years. He also claimed to have known Jack Ruby, a sleazy nightclub owner. Despite all of this knowledge, he was told, and apparently believed, that the assassination in Dallas was only supposed to be a "threat" to the President. In view of all the theories which have been expounded about this man, the playwright has little choice but to make his Oswald character seek justification for his actions.

The performances of Cohen, Scott, Dotterer, and Bucci were nothing short of fantastic. Each actor overcame the inevitable obstacles and brought a true sense of realism to the roles. They are all consummate performers.

The costumes (unaccredited) were perfect.

The lighting and sound design (uncredited, but possibly Lopardi's, Frank Calo's and Kevin Brofsky's work) could not have been more fitting.

The set (uncredited) was basic and sufficient.

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 1

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2000 Sheila Mart