Through April 10.
There are several moments in The
Gospel According to James that don’t ring true, but that is
the point. Playwright Charles Smith (Pudd’nhead Wilson)
looks at the 1930 double lynching in Marion, Ind., through two, often
The first belongs to James Cameron
(Andre DeShields), who escaped the lynching and, decades later, seeks
to memorialize its victims. The second is Marie (Linda Kimbrough), a
woman who spent a lifetime trying to forget she was there. As the two
take turns narrating the events of that horrific August night, heroes
become villains, cads turn kind and a distressed damsel starts to
look like a willing shill.
Director Chuck Smith (of Chicago’s
Goodman Theatre) beautifully orchestrates supporting performances,
broad and nuanced, until we can’t tell which characterizations
represent reality and which the fantasy of memory. If the two Smiths
can’t give us the facts behind the tragedy, they do well to
uncover truth, then as now, in the fragile swagger of youth, the
complexities of the parent-child bond and the infinite potential for
The Gospel grows too rich in
symbolism at the end, but overall, this production, set against a
nearly bare stage with a tree-painted backdrop, is disquieting and
deeply moving. It is an exciting commission from the IRT, heading to
Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theatre after this premiere run.