“New Jerusalem” at Stage West
This week’s “Stage” page offers an interview with Garret Storms, the actor who landed the meaty role of 17th century Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza in Stage West’s current Southwest premiere of David Ives’s New Jerusalem. The play follows the synagogue trial of Spinoza, who challenged Jewish peers and Christian officials in his hometown of Amsterdam with unorthodox ideas about God, freedom, fate, and the natural world. Storms calls some of the philosopher’s notions “terrifying.” Spinoza’s peers agreed.
As we know, things often don’t turn out so hot for individuals who confront the cherished tenets of their communities. Director Joseph Losey filmed a fine 1975 version of Bertolt Brecht’s play Galileo, about the 17th century astronomer who pissed off a pope by simply looking closely at the sky. The movie version of Inherit the Wind (1960) is adored by many for its dramatization of the 1920s Scopes Monkey trial; here’s Spencer Tracy’s famous “fanaticism and ignorance are forever busy” speech. Lastly, 1997’s underrated Wilde offers a vivid look at the 1895 trials of Oscar Wilde. In this scene, Stephen Fry is heart-wrenching as he struggles to define “the love that dare not speak its name.”