Libretto by Yehuda Hyman
Music by Daniel Hoffman
Light and shadow typically assume moral implications in literature, where light is often divine and dark symbolizes the unknown and the scary. In Greek mythology, the dead who could afford it, bribed Charon to take them across the River Styx to Hades, while those who could not, hovered around the river for eternity as “shades”. Plato saw this imperfect world as silhouettes projected on the walls of a dark cave. Film noirs build drama in scenes that are dark and perpetually rainy, while “The Lion King” turned to a dark, shadowy elephant graveyard as the place of supreme chaos and evil.
“David in Shadow and Light”, the current play at Theater J at the Washington DC JCC, builds upon the charged metaphors of light and dark with a new twist. In the play, the gaps between film frames serve as a metaphor for the life of King David. If the information about David’s life in the Bible is the series of film frames, the space between frames “contain” the many details the Bible could have provided but did not – the set of emotions, thoughts, and other actions that the play improvises upon.
The cast of David in Shadow and Light. Photo by Stan Barouh, courtesy of Theater J.
In an adaptation of the famous “RENT” song, “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?” the characters of “David in Shadow and Light” lay out this methodology early on in a song: “Twenty-four frames per second of life/ An even division of shadow and light/ A vision projected on canvas of white/ In 24 frames per second of life.” In between frames, so the song continues, “is the moment between/ Where the vision goes dark to reveal the unseen/ Where the heart has to choose how to play out the scene/ In the moment between every moment between.”
The frames come from a projector upon which Archangel Metatron (Donna Migliaccio) shows the 930-year-old, wheelchair-ridden and dejected Adam (Norman Aronovic) how the future will unfold. Metatron shows Noah, Sarah, Ishmael, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Miriam, Samson, Shakespeare, Napoleon, Einstein, Martin Luther King, and Kennedy. But as she tries to fast forward past the young David, who is only destined to live a matter of hours, Adam insists that Metatron stop the reel.