It is the not-so-distant future. The first black Pope is on his way to Damascus to act as a human shield in hopes of preventing a bombing supported by the first third party President of the United States of America. If that doesn’t sound like an intriguing way to begin a story, then The Road to Damascus is not for you. Tom Dulack carries through with this bold premise with complete commitment and clever attention to detail. By remaining firmly grounded and true to itself, the piece manages to be simultaneously reflective, current and forward thinking.
Given the importance that faith plays in the events that unfold, it’s appropriate that Mr. Dulack and his cast approach the material with total devotion. Each character is given at least one rich and revealing speech, which must delight this group of seasoned professionals. Rufus Collins is so convincing and nuanced in the pivotal role of Dexter Hobhouse, a third rate diplomat on it critical mission, that I half expected to meet one of his three ex-wives in the lobby. Liza Vann as odious NSA agent Bree Benson brings some much needed comic relief to the mix. But it falls to Larisa Polonsky as TV news rising star Nadia Kirilenko to articulate the main plot thread: the complex role that religion has always played in politics and war. Her harsh criticism of all religions, including her own, is particularly timely given the recent fall out from President Obama’s comments at the annual prayer breakfast.
The play runs as one long yet tight 100 minute act. This helps the playwright build an appropriate level of apprehension undiluted by soft drinks, stretching and fresh air. The tense atmosphere is supported by Brittany Tasta’s clean, informative and flexible set. As directed by Michael Parva, the characters (and consequently the audience) are rapidly swept along from decision to decision. There may be a few too many coincidences in the plot twists for some tastes, but I was completely captivated by these people and the hard, very real choices they are given.
The World Premiere of The Road to Damascus, presented by the Directors Company, is playing through March 1, 2015 at 59 East 59th Street Theater. For information or to purchase tickets, please visit: