Pre-Arthurian postlapsarian intrigue occurred on Facebook Live this December 18th. Dunvegan Productions entertained both knights and knaves with Lane McLeod Jackson’s A Prophet’s Gamble. Tyler Riley directed the outstanding cast.
Merlin (played by Lou DiPilla III) had a vision of an ideal society. To achieve his dream, he brought together a council consisting of “Church, Conqueror and the Court.” Over dinner; the Archbishop of Canterbury (Taylor Cawley), Sir Holt of the Distant Isles (Dustin Sutliff) and Duke Ector (Tony Patryn) would discuss and debate this new government. The Justice Minister designate, Morgan Le Fey (Jocelyn Mitchell-Williams) and Merlin’s protégé Vivian (Juliana Cerón) joined them.
Duke Ector referred to Merlin as “the Goat”; probably alluding to the conjurer’s legendary concupiscence. Actor Lou DiPilla III showed himself to be the GOAT in the Muhammad Ali/Tom Brady sense of the word. He performed a magnificent interpretation of the sorcerer.
Lou DiPilla III brought his own histrionic magic to the role of Merlin. DiPilla III made this legendary figure from Arthurian lore into his own original character. The performer captured the serious aspects of the wizard’s personality. DiPilla III portrayed Merlin as a Benjamin Franklin type figure. As a statesman, he showed his diplomatic skills when selling others on his beneficent form of government.
The Archbishop condemned Merlin for using “black magic,” and being both “the son of the devil” and “evil incarnate.” DiPilla III showed that even malevolence has a sense of humor.
DiPilla III added comedy to the role of the mythical magician. He performed an impressive impression of Marlon Brando from The Godfather. Putting on a pair of sunglasses, he mimicked a hippie. His eye rolling and head bobbing as the Archbishop said grace captured the character’s inner thoughts with wit.
Each act began with Vivian reading a tale from the Arthurian legend. Juliana Cerón addressed the audience as though speaking to a group of school children. She displayed extraordinary skill as a storyteller. As expressive performer, she showed outstanding stage presence. Ms. Cerón delivered the narratives with passion and enthusiasm.
Jocelyn Mitchell-Williams portrayed Morgan Le Fey, an interesting choice to serve as Minister of Justice. Mitchell-Williams brought out the character’s burning ambition for the crown. She also captured the irony that someone interested in “justice,” viewed vengeance as the only appropriate implementation of it.
Mitchell-Williams showed that even her character had a sense of humor. When referring to Merlin’s wizard outfit, she observed, “It’s a hit at all kids’ birthday parties.”
Taylor Cawley played the Archbishop of Canterbury. Cawley’s stern looks and fierce answers showed the true nature lurking underneath the vestments. In addition to executing over 1,000 people (over just the last year) he also downplayed myriad allegations of clerical “abuse.” When not behaving like a vicious enemy of the human race, the Archbishop advocated for the Church’s interests zealously.
“Another glass of wine and I’d be in Paradise,” Duke Ector said. Tony Patryn played the role like the character experienced eternal bliss many times over. Self-described “proud of being a drunken sot,” the Duke also delivered the play’s most interesting lines. He called Le Fey’s family tree: “gnarly and weird.” As Arthur’s guardian, he informed the gathering that he, “Wouldn’t have had the prince shoveling shit” if he had known his charge would ascend to the throne. Mr. Patryn expressed this amusing dialog with a touch of drunken inhibition. He still spoke the lines clear enough for the audience to understand them.
Dustin Sutliff delivered a dignified portrayal of Sir Holt of the Distant Isles. A man who conquered 32 kingdoms in less than one year proved himself the noblest of the guests. He developed a code of conduct that would evolve into chivalry. The son of a cannibal and a giant, he conducted himself as a good man who led by example. If he ascended to the throne he would, “Baptize dragons if they stayed still long enough.” Mr. Sutliff brought these traits to the screen.
Lane McLeod Jackson’s script included creative language. Merlin described Arthur as having “steel under the skin” as he progressed from “stable hand to squire.” The expression “legions of legend” and an onomatopoeic heartbeat sound appeared in the text. When Merlin informed Le Fey that dinner would accompany the meeting, she added, “Pigs are better behaved when fed.”
The playwright included words and expressions more common to the modern American vernacular than Medieval English. This language gave the show a contemporary quality.
Chris DePew’s virtual scenic design well accommodated the setting. The stone walls, dim lighting and shields reminded this reviewer of the décor at Pennsauken dining establishment The Pub. The ambiance suited a fictional dinner gathering just as well.
Ross Lampert handled Music Supervision and the show’s original music. He worked a Medieval vibe into his compositions.
Willow Bethke stage managed the project.
Camelot may be a mythical ideal. Dunvegan Productions ensured that quality virtual theatre remains a reality even during the coronavirus pandemic.
Those who missed the original broadcast still have the opportunity to see A Prophet’s Gamble. After the show’s debut, Dunvegan Productions announced plans to keep the production available on their Facebook page for “at least the next week.”