If Joan of Arc is not one of the most popular historical icons in literature, theater or in the movies, then allow me to disturb the universe in stating this as fact. Academy Award winner Ingrid Bergman played Joan in 1948. Milla Jovovich took her turn with “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” in 1999, and the most significant and powerful performance came from French actress Maria Falconetti in “La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc” in 1928. Joan was dubbed the warrior virgin. The little peasant girl from France was only 19 when she was executed.

Joan of Arc (Amanda Karr) declares victory in the battle against the English

She remains a testament in courage, a bit naïve but also fearless and determined. The girl had a mission and nothing, not even death would deter her. Surrounded by ‘men of God’ and an officer from court representing England, these men will decide the young woman’s inevitable fate.

Joan (Amanda Karr) is on trial for a slew of bogus charges, among them sorcery and sacrilege. Bishop Cauchon (Jim Rice), the Inquisitor (Anibal Silveyra) and an overly eager Promoter (Dan Cole) will judge Joan’s actions. Under the stern scrutiny eye of the council, Joan explains how she heard the heavenly voice of St. Michael urging her to drive the English from France and make Charles the Dauphin (Adam Chambers) king. The petite Joan completes her goal and Charles is made king. Unfortunately, she’s captured and now must talk her way out of execution.

Warwick (Josh Hayden) and Cauchon (Jim Rice) conspire against Joan

The council does everything to not make it possible. Everyone has their own agenda and the only commonality the men share is to silence Joan. The Bishop protects his political interests, the apathetic Warwick (Josh Hayden) wants the killing over with, and the Promoter just plain doesn’t like the girl. Joan relives her story from inception to her current state.

She never wavers or apologizes for her “crime”. This angers the council even more. In her pure Christian heart, Joan believes she did God’s work. This whole business of being condemned is utterly ridiculous and most importantly, has no merit. Not to worry though. The council will find reason even if it’s made up. The girl holds on to her faith despite everyone, including her family, dissuading her.

Joan (Amanda Karr) trying to make sense on what’s happening with her

Karr is amazing to watch and makes a convincing, sympathetic Joan. She emotes so much passion which instantly makes people cheer for her. In telling the story, Karr makes Joan sound a bit confused mixing up fantasy with reality. This confusion probably derives that she had little food and sleep as a prisoner. Her judgment obviously impaired as the men bullied her to recant. Even when she’s bullied, Karr makes Joan alert and satisfied with their actions. There’s no faltering there. There are glimmers of admiration on Warwick’s part as he simultaneously admires the girl’s courage and despises her interference. Hayden savors his villainous role evocative of Tim Roth’s Archibald Cunningham in the 1995 film “Rob Roy”. He plays one of those handsome characters that exudes vile making it look sexy when it is contemptible.

In one scene, Hayden’s alter ego makes a visit to Joan in the dungeon and offers her kind words. He could have berated her but instead took a more compassionate approach giving his character a touch of veiled humanity. The rest of the council could have benefited from that lesson especially, The Inquisitor played brilliantly by Silveyra. He doesn’t speak at all in the first act but makes up for it in the second half providing an intimidating almost god-like voice spewing out menacing rhetoric The other characters look in awe, except of course Warwick who prefer the old man to shut up and sit down.

Agnes Sorel (forward left, Amanda Vermillion), the Archbishop of Reims (David Ghilardi), the Executioner (Ian S. McAlpine), the Little Queen (Lynn Trickey) and Queen Yolande (Stacey James) all badly advise Charles (Adam Chambers sitting down) how to proceed with the war

Adam Chambers was a great Charles providing the Dauphin a childlike demeanor without appearing cartoonish. He resembles more of a rock star with his shoulder length curly hair, liquid green eyes and laid back charm. He plays dumb to the rest of the kingdom but confesses to Joan he does that purposely so everyone would back off. It works. They do leave him alone.  But it’s Karr’s performance that makes the show shine. She gives Joan many dimensions: innocent, strong, willful and most importantly fearless. Her body went limp as she’s forced to sign, with the help of Brother Ladvenu (Mark Petrie), that she is a witch and regrets her actions. The light in her eyes that brilliantly shone earlier has dimmed forever.

Joan (Amanda Karr) standing her ground against the fierce Inquisitor (Anibal Silveyra)

Should she have ignored St. Michael’s calls like she did the last three times? Did she think she could have changed the world, this uneducated French girl who came from nowhere? These thoughts most likely passed through her mind during her sentencing. Bishop Cauchon confides to Warwick that “the world will forget her soon enough.” He was so wrong. 

“The Lark” plays at The Knightsbridge Theatre L.A., 1944 Riverside Dr.,
Los Angeles, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. until Sunday, August 26.  For tickets and reservations call (323) 667-0955.

Photos by Robert Craig


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