The Spirit of Man

By Peter Barnes. This is actually three related one-acts: and Handmaiden of the Second Kind, From Sleep And Shadow, and The Night of Sinchat Torah. All of these plays deal with the issue of faith and religion being put to the test, and how people react under these circumstances. In the first, a woman being tried by the French Inquisition in the 1400s pleads guilty to witchcraft and terrorizes her oppressors. At the end she confesses to God (and the audience) that it was all sleight of hand and trickery, because she did not want to be tortured or die. The second takes place after the English Revolution. A man whose wife is dying enlists the aid of a Ranter with peculiar beliefs. The latter (played by Alan Rickman) summons the spirit of the former’s first wife (Sarah), who is keeping the spirit of the second (Abigale) from returning to her body. In the third, three Jews in 1800s Poland cast out God for abandoning their people.

These are three interesting scenes all of which gnaw on a similar bone — this isn’t a form I had thought to use, but seems ideal for a piece that comes out of an ideological need, or perhaps any well-formulated idea or need.

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