The Grand Inquisitor
Peter Brook's staging of an excerpt from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov is a rapt and challenging experience.
For those needing to brush up their Dostoyevsky, "The Grand Inquisitor" section of the panoramic tome is a poem that Ivan -- the rationalist of the three eponymous brothers --composes and recites to sibling Alyosha. In the gritty parable, Jesus has appeared on the streets of Seville, where he's been healing passers-by and has even resurrected a seven-year-old girl. For his benevolence, he's arrested by the cardinal and then chastised in his cell.
The cardinal's argument is that Jesus made a crucial spiritual and tactical error by insisting humanity can not live by bread alone. He maintains that men and women will always prefer bread over oppressive freedom of choice and that he and his peers, in Jesus' name, manipulate their congregations accordingly.
Elaborating on the thesis to a man whom he plans to burn at the stake the following day, the cardinal contrives to make Jesus admit his errors but not before at least expressing anger over being so convincingly exposed. Instead, Jesus --who hasn't shifted his gaze throughout the jeremiad -- stands and executes a Christ-like act of redemption that resonates with the New Testament even as it disorients the cardinal.
As befits the stark tale, Brook gives it a stark production. The space is empty, except for an approximately 10-foot square platform, a black stool, and a rectangular black cube -- a look that is reminiscent of the ones Brook gave Fragments, his Samuel Beckett compendium, and his long-ago stripped-down Carmen.