From the Artistic Director
The season has been building to this moment; the unveiling of our most ambitious world premiere to date; the launching of an epic musical of size and scope with a subject at the very heart of this theaterr’s mission. May marks the opening of David in Shadow and Light and it’s the fulfillment of a project more than four years in the making.
Sometimes the bible can read like the best script ever written, with great characters, stunning plot turns and reversals of fortune that only a soap opera writer could dream up. When adapted by as literate, humorous and insightful a playwright as Yehuda Hyman, author of the 2003 Theater J hit show, The Mad Dancers: A Mystical Comedy with Ecstatic Dance, the libretto of a particularly gripping biblical tale can become a work of near Shakespearean dimension. That’s what we’re seeing in the development of this learned yet irreverent book; a play with deep human insight, hilarious dialogue, sung-through arias, and lyrics frequently set to rhyming verse. The result is a brilliant book for a musical.
And then there’s the music. Theater J regulars already know the composer Daniel Hoffman for his virtuoso violin playing. We’ve seen him on stage in both God’s Donkey, the Traveling Jewish Theatre’s “Play on Moses” back in 2003, and as the brilliant on stage fiddler both last season and earlier this winter in Shlemiel The First. Daniel’s work as a composer is as brilliant as his klezmir and classically inflected violin playing. As a composer, Daniel’s been the brains behind the compositions for the klezmir fusion band Davka for well over a decade. Now he expands his range to include a layered Middle Eastern, world music, roots, klezmir, pop, rock, and liturgically inspired tapestry of song, recitative, and aria to give us a score of biblical resonance and contemporary currency.
With choreography by Peter DiMuro, Artistic Director of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, and performed under the direction of Nick Olcott, David in Shadow and Light is a blend of music, dance, shadow puppetry and other stirring visual effects, performed by ten actors accompanied by four musicians playing a variety of Middle Eastern and Asian instruments. Through the course of the piece, elements combine to tell the story of David’s rise from simple shepherd to powerful king. The play is cleverly framed by two characters, the Archangel Metatron and Adam, the first human, who chance upon the infant David and are compelled to watch the film of his life as the show progresses.
While making the ancient biblical drama spring to life, David in Shadow and Light also speaks to a number of issues in our time. Themes of heroism, downfall, repentance and ultimate forgiveness become a lens through which we can explore society’s embattled notions of crime, punishment, celebrity worship, and the attributes of true leadership.
More than anything, the story celebrates David’s virtuosity; his generosity of talent, fervor, and capacity to love. Because of its universality, the story is able to reflect on both the ancient history and the modern re-birth of Israel, making this historic epic immediately relevant to today’s audience as well as the themes of Yom Ha’Atzmaut (May 8, 2008) and Israel @ 60 celebrations.
We hope you don’t miss this thrilling, season ending production!