My big question going in was how the company would ever interpret this medieval Christian allegory. How do you sell a 600-year-old play about the fact that we're all going to die to an affluent, secular 21st-century audience dressed for a night on the town?
The answer, brilliantly rendered by the folks at Throughline, is that you reveal that potentially creaky story's universality. You set the production in a ruined present-day library where, with some unspecified but brutal conflict (civil war? alien invasion?) raging outside, nine women have taken shelter. You have one of the women reading Everyman aloud repeatedly, for comfort and to everyone else's annoyance, until they all decide to act it out to help pass the time.
And you have most of the characters take the story for a campy joke until they realize that, in addition to sin and salvation, Everyman is also about things like not knowing who your friends really are. And being unsure if you can bear the burden of setting your life right before you're require to pass out of it. Throughline's conception of the play is strong enough that it might even resonate with audiences who weren't raised in a culture steeped in Judeo-Christian understandings of fate.
The anonymously written play, adapted by Throughline, is staged in a production directed by Abigail Lis-Perlis and Joseph Ryan Yow. The directors and the large cast do a great job at differentiating the unnamed characters; although we learn, really, nothing about their personal histories, the action and clever staging prompt us to imagine interesting back-stories for most of them.
Here is Michelle Pilecki's review of the show for CP.
Doing Everyman was a bold choice for Throughline, and it's paid off in a production that's both theatrically satisfying and deeply moving. And with ticket prices at $12-15, you'll get few better theatrical bargains in town.
Only trouble is, there are just two more performances, today's matinee and evening shows, at 2 and 8 p.m.
The troupe performs at Grey Box Theatre, 3595 Butler St., in Lawrenceville. More information is here.