In this play by Scott Carpenter and staged by the Washington Stage Guild, Jefferson, Dickens, and Tolstoy, after their deaths, find themselves, like the characters in Sartre’s No Exit, together in a room from which they cannot escape. They finally figure out why they are put together in the afterlife: each of them rewrote or reinterpreted the gospels. Each then describes to the others how and why he did so. Dickens (Peter Boyer) is amusingly vain. He wrote a version aimed at children and quite traditional with miracles on full display. Jefferson (Brit Herring) is depicted, at least at first, as a pretty pallid rationalist. He venerates Jesus as a great moral teacher and cut out the supernatural elements from his version. Tolstoy (Steven Carpenter) is a volatile, angry man, ironic in one who preaches non-resistance to evil. Similarly to Jefferson, Tolstoy sees Jesus as a moral teacher, but focuses on those parts of the sermon on the mount that intensify or contradict commandments related in the Hebrew Bible.
Mr. Carpenter presents his three characters, each in his own way, as somewhat extreme, or, at the very least, strong minded. They are not mere spokesmen for their ideas but people with their own sensibilities and their own failures in living up to ideas they profess. Director Bill Largess has the actors engage in a fair amount of movement in the simple set and this adds to the characterization. The result is not a dryly academic exposition of ideas but an exploration and interaction of personalities. I consider this a good presentation of an interesting play. The ending is not that good, but it is difficult to conceive what a better ending would be.
The play will be performed through April 24, 2016 in Washington, DC.