I love historical movies, books and plays. The trouble is that many historical stories are too long because so much has to be explained. In the new play at the Lillian Theatre, God's Gypsy, directed by Joel Daavid, about Teresa of Avila, this had a touch of excess length, but, in general, Coco Blignaut's adaptation of Barbara Mujica's NY Times bestselling novel, "Sister Theresa" flowed with humor and tension mixed with the facts of the day.
The play stars writer Coco Blignaut as Teresa, Tsulan Cooper (Sister Angelica,) Daniel DeWeldon (Father Braulio) and Edison Park (Father Javier.) The team of actors work shopped the play for over three years, perfecting the scenes. Also in the cast are David Haverty, Abbe Rowlins, Pat Satcher, Carole Weyers, and Jeanne Witczak.
According to Mujica, Coco looks very much like the saint, herself, and seem to fit into the blessed role quite easily, but the dialogue, at times, was a bit stilted.
Before she was a popular saint, Teresa of Avila (known in the Spanish countries as Teresa de Jesus) was very much a woman and God's Gypsy gives a bold, sexy, humanizing portrait of this 16th century mystic who became a controversial reformer of the Catholic Church. Growing up spoiled as a morrano (secret Jew), she was sent to a convent to learn discipline and instead found a religious fervor. Through the sister's writings, we learn of her own personal relationship with God, one that did not rely on the priests to interpret and her many visions.
Called a 'saint for our age", Teresa believed that an immediate and direct connection with God could be had through meditation. Many of her thoughts might have come from her Jewish ancestry since this idea is prominent among Hebrew philosophy. The Spanish Inquisition, however, had a difficult time accepting this modern concept and several times called Teresa in for questioning accusing her of blasphemy, heresy, and demonic possession.
Celebrated violinist Lili Haydn contributed her own original score and played at select performances.
The realistic set design was done by director Joel Daavid, with lighting by Leigh Allen, sound by Christopher Moscatiello, and costume by Michael Mullen. The play, itself, was produced by Mike Abramson.
I recommend the play not only for the education it provides, but for the superb acting skills seen.
Tickets cost $30 and reservations can be made going to God's Gypsy or calling 866-811-4111. The Lilian Theatre is one and a half block west of Vine at Santa Monica Blvd. (1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood 90038.) The play runs through January 12, 2014 and performances at Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 6 pm. The theatre will be dark Dec 26-29.