The good guy who ordered crucifixion of Jesus' comes alive on stage March 31Friday March 24 2023
Attending a rehearsal of Chemichemi Players’ latest production, Pilate was a thought-provoking experience.
Invited by the group’s founder-director, Julisa Rowe, I could not resist taking her up on her invitation.
She is a well-known drama teacher, director, and actor in her own right as we saw recently when she co-starred in Spread Your Garment Over Me with six other outstanding women actors in performing portraits of women mentioned in the Bible, everyone from Eve and Deborah to Rahab, Rizpah, and Sarah.
She directed that show as well as a subsequent one that complimented the all-women’s play. Entitled Leaders and Kings, the show featured an all-male cast playing everyone from Jeremiah, Joshua, and Pharoah to Adam, David, and Eli.
Both of those plays were scripted by an American playwright, Mark Allen Eaton. And even her latest work, both producing and directing a play about Pontius Pilate, is by the same playwright.
As such, all three plays take Bible stories and transform their central characters into fascinating human beings whose challenges are brought to light with penetrating insight.
Pilate (played deftly by Justin Mirichii) is a particularly interesting Bible character. He was neither a Christian nor a Jew, which might have made it easier for him to pass the final judgment on the life of Jesus Christ.
Other than knowing he was the Governor of Judah during the days of the tyrannical King Tiberius, we know little about Pilate.
That left Eaton lots of psychological space to delve into the Governor’s mind as well as into his marriage to Claudia (Joyce Musoke), which had its own complications.
Pilate opens next weekend, March 31, at Oshwal Academy Secondary. I will attend its Kenyan premiere as I’ve been looking forward to seeing the whole play.
I only watched Act 1, but I was already riveted by what I saw. Pilate is a complicated character and Justin Mirichii grasps that complexity with subtle insight.
I could already see that his political ambitions clashed with the marital hopes of his wife who was having deep doubts about her marriage to Pilate.
On more than one occasion, she admits she should have known from the outset that their marriage had been too rushed and nothing like what she’d wanted for her wedding day.
But she compromised her desires and complied with his plan, so how would that go in Act 2, I wondered?
Pilate is an ambitious man. He was a relatively good guy, good enough to win Claudia’s heart. But he also has a secret lust for power and prestige which is one reason he agrees to go to Jerusalem and become Governor of the volatile kingdom of Judah.
Pilate’s job is to deal with the Hebrew slaves and rule them with ‘an iron hand’. But he isn’t that kind of guy.
The nuances of his decision concerning Jesus are undoubtedly brought to light in Act Two. One begins to pick them up in the first act, where one sees how Pilate wants to please his superiors because he wants a seat in the Senate.
He believes that by pleasing the Sadducees and Pharisees who we are told ‘hate’ Jesus and want him dead, he can use that decision as a stepping stone to more powerful and prestigious positions in government.
Act Two reveals whether that happens or not. Naturally, the playwright is conversant with what Pilate ultimately chose to do.
He is an agnostic, so religious dogma has no power to sway his decision related to Jesus’ fate. Nonetheless, Claudia has grown increasingly committed to the ’son of God' and that must have galled Pilate no end.
Pilate opens on March 31 and between now and then, this show is going to get even more fascinating. Did I mention that the Hebrews blamed Pilate for many things, including the death of John the Baptist who makes a brief appearance in the play?
So does Jesus whom Claudia makes a point of introducing herself to. She is deeply moved by the man, so much so that Pilate suggests she loves Jesus more than him, which could very well be true.
She transfers her affection from her busy husband who has no time for her to this holy man who has time for everyone.
So be assured Pilate is a show that one also need not be a Christian or a Jew to enjoy. I recommend that you go and see it for yourself.