Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0679. Thursday, 19 September 1996.
Date: Wednesday, 18 Sep 1996 14:03:06 -0400
Subject: Non Angli, sed Angeley.
Last week I attended "Jacob and Joseph", the nearest thing to a genuine
contemporary cycle-play I am ever likely to see. I thought I'd share with you
my impressions of this extraordinary event.
Rev. Ernest Angely's 4-hour production of a script by the Lord God Himself was
You cannot imagine. You cannot even begin to conceive. It was amazing. I was
speechless. Never have I seen such inspired, such sublime drivel. And --joy of
joys-- the Rev. himself did the narration (in the historic present, as though
they were stage directions). Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!
The Grace Cathedral, the play's venue, is a huge semicircular open-plan
auditorium with a stage curving across the long side. Behind the stage is an
enormous gold-lame curtain which rises in loops and pouches all the way along
for "discoveries". Centre hangs a golden crown (Angeley's logo). Stage right is
a large canvas open tent. Stage left a pile of stones. Other sets rise from
(yes!) a trapdoor center. Pharoah sits on a huge winged throne while bald
eunuchoids fan him with large purple fans, a la Cleopatra. Behind the whole is
a set of steps on which the choir will appear to punctuate the proceedings with
rousing songs such as "Deceit deceit will bring defeat" (repeated at strategic
intervals throughout) and "The Joseph lovesong". Rev. Angeley himself sits
modestly behind a console way left from which he narrates and supervises.
My favorite moments? Oh, help me Muse!
The way Jacob barked to Esau: "You have sold ME your BIRTHright and canNOT get
it BACK. E-ver!"
The stick-on goatskins (for those instant hairy forearms).
The way we could tell why Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah because Leah had no
dress-sense and a lousy hairdo while Rachel had a snazzy purple outfit and a
The stuffed leopard that somehow managed to form part of the decor in Laban's
tent, along with the four menorahs and the half-dozen small brass camels
(a.k.a. pagan idols).
The odd interpretive decision to have Rachel pregnant with Joseph as she sat on
her father's gods and announced "it is with me after the manner of women".
Jacob's ladder: two ladders stretching up into the flies with angels in white
dresses going up one side and down the other (but switching over at the top
where you could see their feet) while the choir sang and supernumerary angels
waved penlight torches in random patterns in front. This went on for about 5
The Angel who wrestled, with his "straight-out-of-Star-Trek with the chasing
lights all through the material" costume so that he looked in the dark like a
nebulous Xmas tree with a head floating on the top.
The "Joseph lovesong" which, in the jauntiest manner possible, proceded to tell
us how much his brothers hated Joseph and how they conspired to put him in a
The "flat man" pictograms on Potiphar's sedan chair (to show we were now in
Egypt, right?). Were they ads for Potiphar's business?
Everything to do with Potiphar's wife. In red silk pajamas, lying on an orange
chintz ottoman, in a high whining voice: "Joseph, Joseph, come LIE with me. WHY
do you serve the god of the HE-brews? Worship OUR gods and you can have
(stroking her calves seductively) ALL you de-SIRE."
The Way-a Pharoah-a spoke-a tre--men--douss-lyy slow-ly-a and-a as-a if-a he
had-a a nast-ya case of em--phys--ee-maaaa. (Pharoah's dream took about 15
minutes to narrate when deivered in this style.)
How when Jacob came to Egypt bringing all his people, a long line of "people"
(never referred to) passed across the stage, and then went round the back and
joined the end of the line to pass through again.
The VERY fluffy beards that made Jacob's sons look like the women disguised as
men from "The Life of Brian"
Joseph's INTERMINABLE death scene, in which (again wheezing horribly) his head
would loll forward only to rise again seconds later with yet another
*completely incomprehensible* exhortation. And --wonder of wonders -- when he
finally died, lo if he didnt keel over sideways VERY VERY slowly until his head
finally hit the bench. Whereupon instantly all the assembled Israelites (about
100, including children) burst into violent lamentation that continued for
about 5 minutes while the choir sang a rockin' upbeat country gospel number
entitled "I'm Goin' Home". I lost it completely and had to feign coughing.
Could I make this up? I ask you, could I?
All this followed by a genuine prayer from the Rev. himself, dressed in his
nattiest threads, where we had to all hold up our hands and repeat after him
("Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!")
I laughed until I cried all the way home.
I'm still sore.
Case Western Reserve University