Vol. 17, No. 14 – April 3 – April 16, 2024 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

The Shroud Raises Questions at Elite

Some questions are meant to be posed repeatedly throughout time, the answers to which may never come. This is the basis for The Shroud, now playing on the main stage at the Elite Theater in Oxnard.

Written by Michael Kassin and directed by Brian Robert Harris, the play presents a stirring experience as the capable cast wrestles with theories, religion, possible explanations and flat-out mysteries. For more than 700 years, historians and scientists have battled for superiority over the linen cloth espoused to have covered Jesus after his crucifixion. Is it fact or fiction? Or perhaps a little of both? The biggest question remains unanswered.

In this play, Dr. Laura Gibson (Theresa Secor) is presenting a symposium on the “facts” of the shroud. Attending the presentation are two colleagues from Los Alamos National Laboratory of New Mexico. One of them, Red Broida (Brad Strickland), makes his intense skepticism known, causing quick a ruckus. As a steadfast atheist who had worked on the development of the atomic bomb, Red needs more proof than faith can provide. After some confrontation, he is invited to become part of a scientific team to further investigate the shroud by applying modern testing techniques.

During this team’s exploration, Red’s mental strength is repeatedly challenged by his memories of personal failure, his colleague, John (Lawrence Gund), a faith healer with demons of her own (Cas Weisberg) and another gentleman from Los Alamos (Ronald Rezac). Erin De Horta appears briefly as Meg, Red’s former wife.

In a revealing talk-back with the author after the performance I attended, Mr. Kassin related that his goal in writing this piece was to capture the release and growth one might experience of inner transformation. One way was allowing the audience to follow Red in his spiritual journey when he comes to grips with the absolute faith some hold than can be healing even without proof, to his realization that the invention of the atomic bomb may have had a deleterious effect world-wide and that he was a major factor in that outcome. Other characters experience transformations they need to move forward. Each one carries a revelation.

The play causes one to reflect on many different levels. Even though the shroud itself is a focal point, the play is about much more than that. It is about inner struggles, faith versus fear, and coming to know yourself and what you believe in. It is about dealing with choices made and the resulting consequences.

The cast manages the weighty material well. Cas Weisberg delivers a strong and compelling performance. She brings her own identity as an Indigenous Two-Spirit actor into the already complex character of Laura with a knowing eye. The blend works especially well in the context of this multi-layered piece.

Theresa Secor, a familiar persona in Ventura County theaters also portrays her character with ease and a bit of humor.

The Shroud runs through April 20. www.theElite.org or 805-483-5118

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