The Devil Made Them Do It: God and Satan Square off on Scientific Grounds in Dell'Arte's 21st-Century Paradise Lost. (theater review)

By Butler, Wendy | American Theatre, October 2002 | Go to article overview

The Devil Made Them Do It: God and Satan Square off on Scientific Grounds in Dell'Arte's 21st-Century Paradise Lost. (theater review)


Butler, Wendy, American Theatre


ONE MARK OF GREAT POETRY IS ITS ability to transcend the time in which it was written. That goes double for English poet John Milton's Paradise Lost, as reen-visioned by the Dell'Arte Company of Blue Lake, Calif. In their ambitious new stage adaptation of the 17th-century God-versus-Satan epic, retitled Paradise Lost: The Clone of God, the physical-theatre specialists of Dell'Arte have pulled Milton's vastly influential, 10,549-line poem out of time, added contemporary science and technology to it and come up with a 21st-century dilemma: Why are we in the dirt staring up at heaven? Is it because of our genes or because of the Almighty?

In this production, the poet's words, not a little affected by his meetings with the Italian scientist and inventor Galileo Galilei, butt up against our own century's latest developments in scientific inquiry--particularly the Human Genome Project. The philosophical resonance of mapping genetic structures (particularly its implications about biological determinism) redirect Milton's cosmic tale, first published in 1667, into up-to-the-moment musings about human behavior--and, by chance or by design, plunge it headlong into reverberations of 9/11.

Development over the course of two years by the Dell' Arte Company in collaboration with Italian-born, Oakland-based scenic designer, director and writer Giulio Cesare Perrone, Paradise Lost: The Clone of God debuted in Blue Lake and toured last summer to Hungary and Croatia. The play takes the shape of there full-evening fragments, the first of which I saw in Dell'Arte's indoor Carlo Theatre in February 2001. It opens with Vivalidi's L'Estro Armonico, whose strains are shoved suddenly aside by the hip-hop rhythms of sound designer Timothy Gray. Rap lyrics--the first of a deluge of inventive anachronisms--toy with the Infamous One: "Satan, this is not your mother calling, come on."

This play's spoken lines are mostly drawn from Milton's poem and recited by the show's lead actors: Dell' Arte managing artistic director Michael Fields, in the physically punishing role of Satan, and Dell'Arte training-school alumnus Dana Wieluns as both his offspring, Sin, and his fellow warrior, Beelzebub, But amid the poet's grandly cadenced rhetoric, spoken and visua references to computers, genetic imprints and viral proliferation unhinge and actors and the tale they tell (not to mention the audience) from their Miltonic moorings.

The Human Genome Project is no small player in this annotated Paradise Lost. Satan is power-hungry and obsessed by the four DNA chemical bases (adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine, or ATCG), which prompts a riveting scene in which Fields's Satan, hair waxed, undershirt drenched with sweat, seemingly connected intravenously to his computer, lurches toward the audience chanting and spitting "ATCG...ATCG!" His body shakes as though he were being electrocuted, and the trauma thrusts him into Satan's great speech of resignation: "Here we may reign secure, and in my choice/To reign is worth ambition, though in hell:/Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven."

The effect is not unlike a 1950s drive-in movie written by Jean-Paul Sartre--science fiction meets existentialism.

The Clone of God frequently escalates into a sound-and-movement cacophony. Thirty-six supporting players from the Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre, dressed in white and lugging suitcases (life's baggage, perhaps), march around the set through a trough of water, weaving past Satan and Sin, their laughter often overlapping the text. They then collapse: Evolution is exhausting.

The second fragment, subtitled Sacred Land, which I saw in July 2001, is an outdoor installation in the Redwood Park forest in the town of Arcata, near Blue Lake. Elaborating on the tension already established between divine law and the muck of earthly creation, the segment introduces Galileo himself; three Adams and Eves, each living in different historical periods (biblical times, the 17th century and modern day); and a fourth couple, Leaf Man and Leaf Woman, who represent genealogy coursing through vegetation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Devil Made Them Do It: God and Satan Square off on Scientific Grounds in Dell'Arte's 21st-Century Paradise Lost. (theater review)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.