Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, October 5, 2001

Moses Goods III, as the title character in David Mamet's
"Edmond," gets a grip on Ben Lukey in the Earle Ernst
Lab Theatre production that opens tomorrow.

Apocalypse then

A theater production at UH adds
its own twists to a tale
exploring the nature of evil

By Scott Vogel

A sense of doom. A man who only feels alive when committing acts of murderous rage. A world that "seems to be crumbling around us."

There's something unexpectedly timely about "Edmond," David Mamet's 1982 tale of one man's terrifying exploration into the nature of evil, which premieres tomorrow evening as part of the late night series at UH's Earle Ernst Lab Theater. And while reading the play as a primer on recent events seems unfairly reductive, its insights into our collective heart of darkness are impossible to miss.

"Edmond" is a departure from Mamet's usual preoccupations with "the standard man's man, money and business," said Taurie Goddess, the director of this 23-scene descent into hell that begins innocuously. To all appearances, Edmond (here played by Moses Goods III -- more on that later) is just your garden variety white guy in a suit, and one who, at least prior to scene one, has managed to keep his irrational impulses in check.

But disaffection begins rearing its head almost immediately once Edmond visits a fortune-teller and is told, "You are not where you belong. It is perhaps true none of us are, but in your case this is more true than in most."

The protagonist evidently takes this information to heart, for in the very next scene he unceremoniously leaves his wife and embarks on a voyage through seamy, pre-Giuliani New York, a trip that leads him to the sidestreets of Times Square, a peep show, massage parlor, fleabag motel, you name it. It's an inner journey as well, one aimed at Edmond's racist, homophobic heart, a world where everyone's got their hand out, from shysters plying three-card monte games to the hookers and waitresses of midtown Manhattan. It isn't long before something snaps in Edmond, his fury at his race's limitations (as well as his own) finally turning bloody.


When: 11 p.m. tomorrow night; 8 p.m. Sunday; 11 p.m. on Oct. 12 and 13

Where: Earle Ernst Lab Theater, University of Hawai'i-Manoa

Cost: $7 with discounts for seniors and UHM students

Call: 956-7655

"I know (Mamet) was reading Joseph Campbell at the time, and I think he saw this as a corruption of 'The Hero With a Thousand Faces,'" said Goddess, referring to the popular study of archetypal myths that inspired everyone from George Lucas to the Wachowski brothers ("The Matrix"). And in casting Goods for the lead role, Goddess has introduced a little corruption of her own. Goods, after all, is black, which might seem to render some of Edmond's insults ("you jungle bunny" comes to mind) meaningless.

"But I didn't want it to be the story of a white guy coming to terms with himself," explained the director. "By having (Goods), there is more of this question of why hatred exists and how everyone can be corrupted by society."

Goddess expects a backlash of sorts. (She vividly remembers working on a local staging of the Beijing Opera, which prompted letters protesting the casting of non-Chinese actors in a Chinese play.) But this guerilla theater veteran -- Goddess is the founder of Honolulu's 3-year-old Cruel Theater Company -- is not about to run away from provocation. Controversy, after all, implies a certain amount of impact, and when it comes to the moribund and increasingly negligible art form known as live theater, impact is a much-coveted goal.

Which is not to say that Goddess provokes indiscriminately. The original poster for "Edmond" featured an American flag prominently, an image that until recently would have proved arresting. Thanks to the events of Sept. 11 and the subsequent barrage of paper Old Glorys in storefront windows, however, a flag-adorned advertisement for a Mametian indictment of American values would have been misleading, not to mention inappropriate.

"I'm very cautious about national fervor," she said. "If I had a dollar for every time someone said, 'Let's just go over there and start bombing everyone, women and children included,' I'd have, like, $23."

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin