Pontius Pilate was a torture man, the man ultimately held responsible for the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.
Coincidentally, his story was being told last weekend when Easter was about to be celebrated by Christians who acknowledge not so much the death as the resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter Sunday.
In any case, it was Chemichemi Players who brought to the Oshwal Academy stage the rarely discussed life of Pilate, the man technically responsible for Jesus’ death.
It’s a speculative psychological study of the former Governor of Judaea who presided over the trial of Jesus and gave the final order for his crucifixion.
Set on a simple stage where the backdrop contains a central niche where Caesar Tiberius (Sam Psenjin) is seated silently through much of the play, signifying the power, authority, and outstretched surveillance arm of the Roman Empire that observed events even in far-flung corners of the Empire.
That included states like Judaea where rebellious Jews were one among many communities living there, and the site where Pilate was sent to convey the so-called ‘iron fist’ of Roman authority to them all.
As the show opens, we meet Luke (Claude Zatara) at the station, having just arrived in Judaea. He bumps into Claudia (Joyce Musoke), Pilate’s lovely wife, who invites him to the Governor’s palace since he had business to attend to with Pilate.
Immediately, we see that all is not well with Pilate. He’s vacuuming his room as if he was a cleaner, perhaps trying to cleanse his spirit of the haunting truth of what he did to the son of God.
Justin Mirichii has finally been given a role worthy of his theatrical prowess. As Pilate, he is an ambitious, unimaginative social climber who hopes to one day obtain a seat in the Senate, so Judaea is for him merely a stepping stone to greater things.
Insisting Claudia comes with him, she too has social ambitions, but the two of them also seem to genuinely be in love. However, once they reach Judaea, he gets lost in his work and she learns how to escape his security guards, leaving her free to discover the Master speaking in the Jewish temple and healing a blind man.
She also sees the rising tides of hatred for his divine message and she begs Pilate to intervene on Jesus’ behalf. But we see how Pilate was too politically cautious (or is it cowardly) to do it.
Inevitably, he presides over the trial in which Jews were overwhelmingly against Jesus. After that, he believes he has no choice but to rule that Jesus be crucified.
Yet Claudia consistently insists he has alternatives, which he had. But he also knows the Jews could turn their wrath on him, and he’d become a liability for Rome, which they eventually decided he was in any case.
So, Jesus, who would never deny he presided over a kingdom ‘not of this world’, had left Pilate no other choice. Yet he got blamed from all sides for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, Luke’s version of the story gets included in the New Testament and Pilate doesn’t get a great review.
The script by Mark Allen Eaton is meant to be taking place in real-time with a myriad of flashbacks that shift the action back to the past seamlessly thanks to Julisa Rowe’s careful direction.
But the present is a blend of Pilate’s present and our present-day, where men wear suits and ties, not just togas and kaftans.
I have a problem with intermissions, especially the way they kill the continuity of action and the rhythm of ideas churning, conflicting, and resolving.
I also wish the second half of Pilate had been shortened a bit since the show didn’t need to be that long. So much momentum had been built up in the first act, I wish it could have been sustained, and we had headed straight for the trial, conviction, crucifixion, and the consequences to Pilate.
We even could have retained our sense of Claudia’s pleading with her man and some of the reasons she was leaving him. She had grounds to depart before Jesus went to the cross, but even deeper ones after he disappeared from the tomb.
On the whole, I loved Pilate and especially loved the chemistry between Justin and Joyce. But next time, please skip the intermission and edit Mr Easton’s script a bit.