Joan of Brooklyn, Looking for Trouble

Joan enters a whole new world.
Joan enters a whole new world. // Nick Thigpen

God, a Caucasian middle-aged man of medium height and slim build, who dresses casually and slicks his hair back in grey paste, is disappointed with the current state of things. But he’s not yet ready to throw in the towel. This he explains to Joan of Arc the final scene of “A New Saint for a New World,” the only scene in which he appears in the flesh.

“A New Saint” opens in present-day Brooklyn in the apartment of Libby Wall (Maura Hooper DRA ’15) who is otherwise known as — and soon revealed to be — French Revolutionary Joan of Arc. Sitting in a wooden chair and sipping red wine out of a mug, Joan futilely attempts to comfort her boyfriend over the loss of his grandparents. After her attempts at consoling him fail, she deems it an appropriate moment to explain to him how, in 2010, she landed in New York City in the body of a 19-year-old girl called Libby. As punishment for successfully leading the French troops, and out of envy for her connection with God, religious opponents burned Joan at the stake when she was only 19. God admitted to her that this was not a part of his plan and allowed her to return to earth in the place of a deceased 19-year-old on one condition — that she did not involve herself in politics or revolutionize in any fashion.

After Joan’s boyfriend declares her crazy and storms out of the apartment, the play flashes forward to “Southeast and Midwest United States,” 2020. Joan is in jail for — you guessed it — leading a violent revolution of millions within the United States, causing the “Second Civil War” and the breakup of the United States into disparate territories. After explaining to a prison official that she is neither a murder nor terrorist in a futile attempt to get out of her execution, a pair of angels arrives in her prison cell. The two inform her that she is to be exiled to God’s new planet called Kaia. The final scenes take place in year “4XB39” on God’s new-and-improved ocean oasis where Joan is upset to find that “nothing is ugly.”

The lighting in “A New Saint” was powerful in and of itself. In the cozy Cabaret theatre, the burst of light prompted by the two angels simulating Joan’s last look at the sun before her departure from earth was striking. Additionally, the extremely bright and uncomfortably harsh lights in the questioning room of the prison created a pressurized environment. And in this intense light, Joan’s relaxed and unexcited demeanor was all-the-more excited. At the end of the play, God is illuminated by soft blue-green light as he talks with Joan across the theatre; the audience gets the sense that his presence is important without being intimidating.

The play, written by Ryan Campbell DRA ’15 is rich in its uncomplicated and straightforward plot. Shifts in time are projected on the back wall and obviously reflected by changes in dress. The play centers around dialogue as opposed to physical action, which would prove difficult on the tiny stage anyway. The blocking in the first scene when Joan expressively explains her history, however, makes the most of the available space. Her character is written a carefree, modern-day, rebel and her movement reflects this.

The joint, two-person character Okun (Annie Hagg DRA ’16 and Elizabeth Mak DRA ’16) on planet Kaia eerily reflects the joyous and community-oriented planet with its golden dress that drapes over both actors. As the characters thoughtlessly sway in unified movement in their attempt to uplift a frustrated Joan, the audience gets a glimpse of what God regards as an improved earth. The theme of change, which manifests in a variety of ways throughout the play, surfaces on Kaia. Okun explains their inability to understand the word “can’t,” which has only been brought to the planet by a discouraged and human Joan.

The use of modern colloquialisms by Joan when she refers to her historical past is hilarious and reflects her complete immersion in the present-day. The dialogue among angels was also well received by the audience. At one point, we learn that Raphael and Raguel are “f**king sh*t up” in heaven and that “starting the second American Civil War is a terrible look” on Joan.

Featuring the musical stylings of Kanye West and Lorde in its opening and closing scenes, “A New Saint for a New World” takes a definitively modern look at the age-old themes of faith and human nature. While the play boasts an unforgivingly optimistic ending — God and Joan agree to not give up on the ailing earth — there still remains the question of how and when we’ll all just get along.

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