Salvation by faith

France's deliverer is an unlikely teenager in St. Joan  
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  January 19, 2006

TEEN QUEST: Saint Joan gives valuable performance at the Children's Theatre.“A miracle,” says the Archbishop of Rheims, is simply “any event that creates faith.” Miracles are subjective, and it’s in this tenuous currency that strident young Joan d’Arc traffics, as she wins and finally loses her countrymen’s hearts and minds. In George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, a portrait of the teenage martyr produced by the Children’s Theatre of Maine, under the direction of Pamela DiPasquale, Joan’s own faith is both her salvation and her liability.

Fifteenth-century France is overrun by English soldiers, and Joan (Rita Brandt-Meyer) hears voices that provide astoundingly sound tactical instruction on how she and the French army can get rid of them. First, though, she must get through to France’s military and religious bigwigs — costumed, by DiPasquale, in post-modern fashion, in garb from a range of eras and cultures — and it’s here that those faith-creating events come in handy.

The pale, slim Brandt-Meyer has a good grasp of Joan’s contrasts, and is at once ethereal and plucky. Her Joan carries an air of beatitude about her, but is also exasperatingly, dangerously presumptuous — think Tracy Flick orchestrating French armies instead of a school election. She also manages, sometimes, to seem very old as well as very young, and when the ferocity of Joan’s faith renders her red-faced and rabid, she somehow transcends age altogether.

The rest of the cast does well in expressing everyone’s inevitable ambivalence about Joan’s fierce absolutism. John Hickson as the Archbishop and Mark Young as Joan’s Inquisitor are particularly eloquent in negotiating their characters’ dual sympathy and affront, and Sebastian Ascanio provides some comic relief as the petulant and fickle King Charles. There’s a lot of outrage in this play — of the clergy, appalled at Joan’s pride; of the military, incensed that the clergy won’t turn Joan over to them straightaway for burning; and of Joan, incredulous at the narrowness of a world that doesn’t hear voices. All this anger is manifested in a fair amount of yelling; DiPasquale’s direction is often most effective when she brings it down to hisses, glares, and silent anguish.

Saint Joan is CTM’s yearly offering to a slightly older audience, and is suggested for viewers aged 12 and up. While nothing overly graphic happens on this set (which is well-designed with back-lit Gothic doorways and, above, a faux-stained-glass depiction of a martyr) the themes that play out are thick and tricky. Saint Joan raises a number of questions that young people and families might share about the nature of faith — in our gods, our fellow people, and ourselves — and considers both its value and its costs.

Saint Joan, by George Bernard Shaw | directed by Pamela DiPasquale | produced by the Children’s Theatre of Maine | through January 29 | 207.828.0617


Email the author:

Megan Grumbling:

  Topics: Theater , Entertainment, Armed Forces, Performing Arts,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   THE DREAM LIVES ON  |  July 31, 2014
    The Deertrees experience is not just theater shows, and not just its program of concerts. Deertrees is also a certain ethos of small-town summertime in Maine.
  •   STEEL POPPIES  |  July 18, 2014
    Linda Sturdivant directs a spirited and attractively appointed production of the musical The Full Monty , the Americanized version of the 1997 British film, at the historic City Theater, in Biddeford.
  •   THE MOST BRUTAL SPORT  |  July 11, 2014
    Ballet is not for pussies.
  •   DISTILLED PORTRAIT  |  July 10, 2014
    The greatest love of the show’s title—for both Chamberlain and its audience—remains the war itself.
  •   MAKE/BELIEVE  |  June 25, 2014
    Portland is already in the thick of the PortFringe 2014, the city’s third annual festival of eclectic, wide-ranging theater from here and afar. This year’s festival of 50 shows runs June 24-29 at six venues — Empire, Geno’s, Mayo Street Arts, SPACE Gallery, and the Portland Stage Studio Theater and Storefront — and includes a first-ever Family Fringe program.

 See all articles by: MEGAN GRUMBLING