4.5 stars

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

conflicting perspectives.

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.




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