Here’s proof that you never know what to expect at Actors Theatre. “Glory of the World” was billed as having something to do with Thomas Merton, the internationlly-known monk with ties to Louisville. It’s his 100th birthday party, and a group of young men are determined to celebrate Merton.
The play opens and closes with quiet mediation, as Les Waters, the director of the production, sits silently as words are projected on both sides of the stage. The idea, I think, is to think.
But then 17 young men enter the stage and mayhem soon ensues. First, many toast Merton for varying accomplishments and personas, from his Catholicism to Solitude, even to his illegitimate child. What follows is hard to describe — the 17 actors proceed to dance, party, fight and cavort around the stage doing a variety of activities, including a long, long, long kiss between two of the actors.
There is love, nudity, dance, violence and humor, and a body-building show. The idea is to present ideas, often in terms of quotes from the characters from famous people, as the actors play a game of contradiction and argument. One such discussion centers on Merton’s religious views, while other aspects of his life, and mysterious death, are explored.
But it’s not a story with a plot, more of a series of interconnected acts involving all 17 characters.
Early reviews indicate “The Glory of the World” will be the most remembered, most remarkable production of the 2015 Humana Festival of New American Plays. This is the sixth Humana premier for the playwright, Charles Mee — Big Love, Limonade Tous les Jours, bobrauschenbergamerica, Hotel Cassiopeia, Under Construction, and The Glory of the World.
Here’s the Actors Theatre description:
A series of toasts to Thomas Merton on the occasion of his 100th birthday erupts into a raucous party. Inspired by myriad points of view on the Kentucky-based Trappist monk, writer and social activist—or pacifist, Buddhist, Catholic, Communist, and more, depending on who you ask—Mee’s exuberant play considers how we can live fully in all our contradictions, and leap into the unknown. A wildly theatrical meditation on happiness, love, the values of solitude and of engagement with the world, and seeking heaven on earth.
Audience Warnings: Strong language and nudity. For mature audiences only.