We’re actually starting to worry a little bit about Peter Marks. Granted, there were some hard feelings back in May when he savaged Theater J’s production of David In Shadow and Light. His review plus the Post Weekend Section’s gratuitous pile-on in their Should You Go? feature effectively killed the show (to be fair, along with a host of other negative notices). Not content with that, Mr. Marks took another swipe at the show yesterday in an article featuring his high and low points for the past theatre season. Fair enough. We can handle the fact that David was an artistic low-point for him, but his critical focus is pulled in a rather Freudian direction.
Exhibit A: In the lede for his May 20th review of the show, Mr. Mark’s comments:
When the scheming underminer, King Saul, gives David the assignment of — yikes! — bringing back the foreskins of 100 Philistines, the future Jewish monarch does not merely meet the gruesome target number. He exceeds it by 100.
The sight of the young actor Matt Pearson proudly toting his bloody sack of 200 foreskins is one of the weirder incidents of this most peculiar musical, which opened Sunday night in a world premiere engagement by Theater J.
The sight might have been weird, but it was based in scripture, specifically: I Samuel 18:25-27
And Saul said: ‘Thus shall ye say to David: The king desireth not any dowry, but a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king’s enemies.’ For Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law. And the days were not expired; and David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full number to the king, that he might be the king’s son-in-law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife.
Now theatrically, the production could have portrayed this moment in any number of ways, from a stylized re-enactment of 200 circumcisions, a bucket of bloody latex, or merely mentioning it. They went with Saul receiving a sack painted red that “contained” the aforementioned foreskins. This Mr. Marks deemed, “Moment most likely to set off the gag reflex“
When King David stormed onto the stage in this bizarre biblical musical, bearing a blood-soaked bag with the foreskins of 200 enemy combatants, you wanted to yell, “Cut!” (Ooh. On second thought, maybe not.)
I don’t know. Maybe Marks has a weak stomach. Maybe he had a bad experience at a bris. Maybe the sack reminded Peter too much of a, well, ahem, sack. But in the final analysis, it was a bag painted red. It was just make-believe. No actual foreskins were harmed in the making of this musical (for the record, we don’t put blood in our matzah either).
Then again, getting an audience member to be viscerally repulsed by a simple prop is the mark of good theater. So perhaps, in the final analysis we’ll just take it as a compliment.