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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Wittenberg

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Wittenberg

By David Davalos

Directed by Matt Pfeiffer

Starring Eric Hissom, Jim Helsinger, and Zack Robidas

Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Orlando FL

If there’s a poignant, unanswered question in the Bible, it’s Pilate’s dismissive “What is Truth?” Truth might be any number of things – if it only covers demonstrable facts, then only science and Logic can encompass it, and we define Faith out of existence. If, however, Truth is handed down from a Higher Power and not subject to human audit, then the use of logic and experiment only approximate truth with PowerPoint slides and cryptic mathematics. Yet, I have an internet connection and a telephone without wire. Clearly neither definition is quite right, and the entire argument fits into the gel cap of “Wittenberg.” Arguing for God is constipated and uptight Dr. Martin Luther (Hissom) and his battle against the corruption of a distant Pope Leo. The secular humanist in this bout is skeptical Dr. Faustus (Helsinger), a man prone to free thinking, free love and passing out mind altering substances like Coffee and Voltaire. The measure of these two poles is athletic Hamlet (Robidas). Unable to decide between the competing camps, he votes independent until greater forces than Truth remove him from philosophy and thrust him into Realpolitk. By the Davalos scale, debating Truth boils down to counting the angels break dancing in a microchip. .

Both Helsinger and Hissom took some serious haircuts to prepare for the show, but they whip out chemistry based on a decade of collaboration on various Orlando Shakes projects. They wink at us while winging tungsten tipped fighting stars at each other on stage. Guest actor Robidas provides the skeptical and obdurate outsider – he claims to seek knowledge, but when the mental sparring takes too much energy, a good game of Codpiece Tennis is more to his taste. This is clearly a Guy Show, but a female energy floats through the show via Sara Ireland. Barmaid, Courtesan, and Virgin Mary, she’s the modern feminine ideal: a strong, independent professional with her own income and birth control devices. You might fall in love with her until she shows up next to you in bed tomorrow morning.

Alternately sacred and profane, subtle and snarky, “Wittenberg” lectures, heckles, and makes you consider the beliefs you hate and question the ones you thought worth dying for. Some of the jokes are blunt and easy (how many takes on “To be or not…” can you write?), others dark and obscure enough to require a parochial education and an advanced degree in Semiotics. Author Davalos clearly did his home work, and he addresses the strengths and failing of both camps while enlighten us about “How the Lutherans Discovered Coffee”, “Why Does God Let Puppies Die?” and generally lecturing on the Practical Limits of Knowledge. You might worry about Sarbanes-Oxley or String Theory or Dark Matter, but if God created the heaven and the earth then Truth is the work of man, and it’s a work in progress. Try to do your part – fund a particle accelerator or edit a Wikipedia entry.

For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater and the Harriet Lake festival of New Plays, visit http://www.orlandoshakes.org