The play may be called Thomas Tallis, but it's as much about his priest friend as it is about the composer. The story begins when Henry VIII separates the Church of England from the Catholic Church as ruled by the pope in Rome (so that he can divorce his wife for someone younger and more fertile, natch). This does not bode well for the Catholics living in England, and here's where the stories of the composer and the priest diverge. The composer adjusts his compositions to the desires of each successive monarch, finding the beauty in each style of music, and somehow avoiding the religious controversy. The priest goes into hiding, is eventually found and arrested, and refusing to deny his faith, is executed.
|the choir sings for the boy king (photo courtesy of Orchard Theater)
|Damian Leverett as Thomas Tallis
Orchard Theater's last play was A Doll's House in the James J. Hill House, and this sort of site-specific intimate setting works well and creates an experience that feels more immediate, raw, and real than sitting in a proscenium theater with distance between the play and the audience. There's no distance here as we're surrounded by the music, words, actors, and silence of the piece.
This play is a great argument for the separation of church and state, because it shows the disastrous results when the state dictates the religion of its citizens and doesn't allow for people to have diverse beliefs. Perhaps a good thing to keep in mind right now.
Thomas Tallis continues through May 5 (more info and tickets here).