Whether or not you believe in God you can support the ideas presented in The Summoning of Everyman, produced by The Edge of the Universe Players 2 at the Melton Rehearsal Hall at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.
The show is a quick and ‘to-the-point’ lesson on humility and the questions people face on a daily basis in supporting those around us in life and in death. The Summoning of Everyman is a dramatic play referred to as a morality play in the breath of medieval drama. This genre of plays is known for the lessons it is supposed to teach the audience with a strong religious undertone. Although there is no known playwright of the show – a commonly accepted idea is that a priest anonymously wrote it with the intention of writing the play to use as a liturgical example of humility.
Productions of Everyman are often modernized in an attempt to make a statement about consumerism or another corrupt part of modern society. However, in this production, Stephen Jarrett chose to stage the show “true” to the form with period costumes, music, and overall staging. The choice was a smart and effective one.
Director Stephen Jarrett has assembled a talented ensemble. Almost every actor played more than one role, except for David Elias (Everyman), as the drive of the play rests on his shoulders. Everyman early on is told he is going to die, and the rest of the show follows him in his preparation for his death. Elias’ performance is very grounded – anyone could connect with this man who could symbolize anyone in life coming to terms that his/her time here on earth is ending. Jase Parker (Death) was also a sharp presence in the cast, Not only was he the bearer of the news to Everyman about his death, he also returned in the end to complete the deed.
The rest of the ensemble also played several roles that represented other people who lend their support in different ways – that Everyman must say goodbye to. A majority of the other roles represented different lenses we perceive life and death through: Strength, Knowledge, Discretion, Good Deeds, Beauty, Five Wits (Wit) all represent. The diverse and excellent ensemble were Lynette Rathnam, Logan Sutherland, Keith Irby, Josh Sticklin, Caroline Wolfson, and Jennifer Robison.
In a show like this every character is very race, age, and gender neutral, and it was refreshing to see such a diversely cast ensemble to support the metaphor of the show – that all of these characters are in our lives as well in all different shapes and forms. There is no “type” required for any of the characters, so any ensemble that works together, as incredibly as this one, can share this story; it is part of the beauty of the play itself.
Costume Designer Cheryl Patton Wu provided the colorful costumes and John Bowhers and Peter Caress designed the simple, yet effective set and lighting. There was also a musical element in the show, including three musicians: Rachel Isaacson (Recorder), Scott Morrison (Percussion), and Gus Voorhees (Hurdy-gurdy). They served as live sound effects for a few particular dramatic moments in the show where they provided playful interludes to some of the transitions of the show, when the ensemble would dance an olden group dance to a tradition tune.
The Summoning of Everyman is a rare opportunity to artistically reflect on life and how we perceive death. It’s a journey worth taking.
Running Time: One hour, with no intermission.
The Summoning of Everyman plays through November 24, 2013 at The Edge of the Universe Players 2 performing at the Melton Rehearsal Hall at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company – 641 D Street, NW, in Washington, Purchase tickets online.