For those who like their drama heavy on the dialectics, Pentecost certainly delivers. The plot revolves around the discovery of a revolutionary, pre-Renaissance fresco in an ancient Balkan church, though the conversation quickly shifts from the history of Western art to the tumult of post-Cold War Eastern Europe. Playwright David Edgar distributes eloquent and thoughtful positions to each of his central characters, though academic back-and-forth largely takes the place of character development. Seth Barrish and his capable cast do their best to imbue Edgar’s talking heads with nuance and zeal, though only Stephen Singer’s robust performance as a surly American art historian truly comes alive.
Unfortunately for Barrish and company, Edgar’s musings on Europe’s immigrant crisis become all too literal in the second half of the play, when a band of desperate refugees storms the church and takes the academics hostage. Improbably, the debate on art and politics continues, with the refugees largely proving as poised and knowledgeable as the professors. Barrish has no choice but to play their interactions for realism, even pathos, though the climactic exchange between hostage takers and prisoners, which hinges on a knowledge of medieval trade routes, borders on the farcical. It’s a pity that the talents of all parties involved must ultimately be squandered on such a contrived situation.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 8, 2005