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OPINION: A pertinent, potent message in ‘Everyman’

April 18, 2013
By SARAH REED , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Aligned in serene beauty, seven exquisitely crafted stained glass panels, each depicting a saint awash in a pallet of extravagant color, stand tranquilly observing a dimly-lit pilgrimage on which Death has been summoned by God to warn a worldly-rich man, known only as Everyman, that unless he forfeit all his earthen treasures eternal damnation lies ready to grasp him unmercifully at his life's end, which draws ever closer. The medieval man's sojourn to purity proves an unfathomable burden as his spirit becomes weary under the strain of his journey, and his beloved vices and those close to him refuse to serve him as he believed they would.

The turbulent struggles experienced by Gabe Valazquez's "Everyman" are not simply emotions that remain unobtrusively contained behind the Fourth Wall in this production, directed by drama professor Shawn Dougherty. As Velazquez's Everyman is surrounded by Death and is told of his possible torturous fate, the fear that overtakes Velazquez sympathetically evokes a frail human with a malleable heart; while his moments of weakness as he attempts to hopelessly cling to the world's superficialities and to persuade both human and his false inanimate friends to accompany him on his somber passage show a pitiable desperation.

To suit the allegorical drama's portrayals of the vices and virtues that Everyman encounters, unique costuming is employed. Pharyne Stephney's gentle, loyal and neglected Good-Deeds is clothed in a drab and tattered dress; while Peter Campagna, Phillip Buss, and Hope Ellis, all of whom portray Death, are clad in dark hooded robes, wear skull-like makeup upon their faces, and don voice-changing microphones which add a distortedly eerie quality to their natural voices; and Andy Ward's delightfully vain Goods is dressed in opulent period attire. The production also conveys a fervent Catholic stance within such characters as Caroline McCaughey's serene and compassionate Knowledge, who is portrayed as a nun, and Kit Adderley's Confession, who is a friar. Ryan Held's stately God additionally adds a fascinating flair to the production, as he is the only performer to wear a mask, which is adorned by a well-groomed white beard, and also uses a voice-altering microphone, giving his normal tone a deeper and more commanding quality.

Franciscan University of Steubenville's production of a nameless medieval playwright's short one-act drama "Everyman," that finished its run in the university's Anathan Theatre Sunday, compellingly depicted the human spirit's trials, triumphs and journey toward eternity in a way that required its audiences to become engaged partakers in the story. As Death floats down an aisle of the theater, looking ominously at a few of the spectators, it is extremely apparent that this is not simply the tale of one man who lived many centuries ago. This is an enduringly relevant tale that holds true today.

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