Thomas with Two Souls
At Tufts Arena Theatre though July 26
Thomas With Two Souls, a modern Greek play by Angelos Terzakes dealing with the doubting apostle Thomas Didymus, asks for "truth-facing" and the acceptance of Christ as man, not myth. It does so, though, by provoking its own fantasies, both theological and theatrical.
Athan Agnos's inept translation and Kalman Burnim's erratic direction of his largely amateurish cast, serve only to emphasize the weaknesses of the play.
The play's main literary device is repetition. The awkwardness and naivete with which it is employed becomes embarrassing quite early in the evening. One word is sequentially used as thre different parts of speech in a striving for poetic utterance that displays the banality of the mind which wrote it: "We were joyful. We followed Him joyfully in order to live in joy."
The first act ends with Thomas trying to explain 'the living legacy of the one up there" to Nathaniel. Thomas asks, "Do you understand?" Nathaniel takes three giant steps, shakes his head and moves offstage. Thomas, alone, tells us, "He didn't understand." This, unfortunately, was the quasitheatrical ending of only the first of three acts.
The lack of consistent characterizations and fully developed scenes undermines a potentially fine dramatic idea, the portrayal of the conflict within Thomas and his break with the other apostles. Just when Thomas is struggling most manfully in language that is grounded in the immediate situation, he is forced to shout out abstractions like, "Destiny is an endless shame, a necessity in order to die." Both the words and the volume of their delivery alienate us from Thomas's true feelings. Thus the voice of the author only annihilates the reality of his characters.
Terzakes also lacks a sense of scene construction. During a scene in which the action finally is gaining momentum, two characters enter and shout, "Excuse us. Leave us alone. Go into the other room."
This stage-clearing-made-simple is not nearly so regrettable as leaving a major scene unwritten. Simon Peters, angrily growled by Armand Asselin, changes offstage from the believer in miracles. Thomas's theological opponent, to one who sees the validity of Thomas's doubts. Peter then vows to become a forger of God and perpetuate an idol. The reasons for his transformation are not even implied in this final and crucial confrontation with Thomas.
John Peakes is a forceful Thomas whose physical and vocal authority allows him to command most of his scenes. But he delivers a why-didn't-Christ-appear-to-me soliloquy with such whiney petulance ("I worked for Him more than all the others, but He only granted peace to them.. When He went to Gethsemane, He only took Peter...", etc.), that the hero's integrity is immediately shattered.
The author has many ideas, but he imposes them arbitrarily upon his play. They are not incorporated into living characters. The production, with its melodramatic denouements and high school delivery, deserves as its final dialogue the following:
Thomas: Give me your hand, Lysia. I want to thank you for life, Lysia. (He takes her hand.) Thank you for life.
Thomas With Two Souls has, I fear, a body composed of what oft was thought, but ne'er so ill expressed.