SALT LAKE CITY — “Judgment day is a myth, like no interest loans or compassionate conservatism.” With a show about Judgment Day, I anticipated heavy monologues on hell and damnation. I didn’t expect humor and I certainly didn’t expect dancing demons singing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Meat & Potato’s Everyman & Judgment Day (Miracles for a Modern Age) was a delightful surprise.
Everyman and Judgment Day are two works that were performed over 500 years ago. Meat & Potato combines and updates these classics striking a balance between ancient and modern. This balance shows that the concept of morality, judgment and death transcends time. We also find that theater is still a venue in which humans may experience the beauty of a message and the magic of story telling.
First, a lesson in the theater, have you heard of a miracle play? I hadn’t. A miracle play (along with mystery and mortality plays) is a theatrical event that appeared in Europe during the Middle Ages (Medieval times). Simply put, these shows were used to communicate abstract concepts of religion. Often the characters were named obvious names to help simplify things. Everyman is a classic example of this with names such as Everyman, Death, Good Deeds, and Knowledge.
The Judgment Day portion begins with God (Michael Gardner, who you may recognize from Dark Play at SLAC) sitting in the audience. He turns to one audience member or another, conversing about humanity and the fact they seem to have forgotten him. He is a frustrated and unhappy god. He walks to the stage and decidedly brings about Judgment Day. The lighting (Samuel A. Mollner) of the seven sins leant much to the scene.
The show is delivered primarily in Old English, staying true to the original text. I found it beautifully lyrical in its rhyme and pace. I commend the actors for making the emotional connections.
My favorite scene was the introduction of the demons. They, with Judgment Day occurring, have found themselves out of a job. The demon costumes (Rachel Zimmerman) were fantastically abstract and outrageous with red Crocs, red bowties and vintage eyeglasses. This scene was brilliant with all three actors doing an amazing job (Michael Gardner, Steven Grawrock and Ellesse Hargreaves). The writing, humor and comedic timing were all right on.
The second portion of the show is the story of Everyman (Rebecca Marcotte) who has been confronted by Death (Josh Thoemke). Decked out as a Biker, Death informs the materialistic Everyman that she must meet her maker. We journey with her as she seeks someone (Fellowship, Kin, Riches, etc.) to come on this journey with her. Again, the humor mixed into these scenes was a pleasant surprise. I especially loved the contrast of Bad Biker dude speaking in Old English and Hip Everyman talking in modern dialect. Marcotte’s portrayal of this character was exceptionally great towards the end as she finds strength, beauty and choice. It was an intimate look into her character and she delivered the journey with grace.
Josh Thoemke was the show stealer for me. He was fantastic in all his roles, especially Good Deeds and Death. I also enjoyed Michael Gardner In his God and Demon role. I did find myself having a hard time making a connection with the character of the Angel (Julie Goldman) and the Cowboy (Steven Grawrock). Angel felt detached for me, I was very aware that I was in a theater with lines being delivered to me and Cowboy felt completely out of place in the show.
This was my first experience with Meat & Potato. However, it seems it was not my first experience with Director, Tobin Atkinson. Some of you may know him from the recent Pioneer Theater production of Twelve Angry Men where he played Juror Number 5. In addition, he also directed Salt Lake Acting Company’s Dark Play or Stories for Boys, which happens to be one of my favorite productions at SLAC. Tobin did not disappoint in Everyman. This show was a unique look at the very familiar Judeo-Christian themes: Where did we come from? Who are we? Where are we going? Even more so, this production showcased classic theater and story telling. The balance that was struck between classical theater and modern interpretations as well as humor and intimacy were beautifully done.
This production grants the participant the opportunity to experience theater on two levels. You are able to journey 500 years into history and hear a story being dramatized to a group of villagers or a congregation. In addition, you are given the chance to relate to the humorous tip of the hat to The Wizard of Oz and other modernizations.