This from our friendly blogger, “ArthurThinks,” who feels that David Ives has written the equivalent of JFK, NIXON, and W; which is to say that he’s written a “non-historical play about an historical event.”
“Of course, it is difficult to write a non-historical play about an historical event, and Ives’ story, which has an Amsterdam civil and Christian leader not only attending the excommunication debate at the synagogue but to a great extent controlling it, and testimony both from a young gentile Dutchman who had portrayed himself as Baruch’s best friend but who turned out to be a spy for the Christian community, and a young Christian woman who was Spinoza’s romantic interest. I am not a student of the Spinoza trial, but would be very surprised if any of these three characters were historical.
So verisimilitude is not Ives’ primary goal. But, unless you knew something about Spinoza, you would not know that you were not seeing actual history.”
The question and the challenge: How much of what Ives has written is true? Did he make up Simon DeVries or Clara Van Den Enden? No. But their roles in the play are enhanced and augmented from what we know of them in real life. Each represents a kind of composite of multiple figures in Spinoza’s life. Hopefully we’ll hear from some Spinoza readers–and our dramaturg Steve Spotswood–as to how Ives’ characters both adhere and depart from the history. And to what affect.
And what of the dissenting critical view with respect to performance? Here, Lisa Traiger of the Washington Jewish Week finds fault in the production’s otherwise highly lauded performances. What to make of it, coming as it does, later than all the other reviews? Is this as much a churlish response to the rapturous reception as to the performance itself?
Curious how others respond to these two pieces, our first less-than-rapturous takes on the production. Methinks this is healthy.