Trinity of Two
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
March 2, 2005
I'm not all that familiar with the poetry of William Blake, and even less acquainted with the writings of the Catholic monk Thomas Merton. Seeing Kimberly Megna's new play Trinity of Two has piqued my interest in the latter; but my sense is that unless you are well-versed in the works of both of these gentlemen, you will likely be as baffled by this strange supernatural drama as I was.
Trinity of Two takes place in the catacombs beneath the Vatican, where a young American priest, Father Quinn, is leading a private tour consisting of lapsed Catholic Sarah and secular Jew Rachel. Father Quinn has been sent to Rome as a kind of training/penance following a problematic incident at his home parish which rattled his faith. The two women were friends and neighbors when they were girls and haven't seen each other in many years. They contacted each other suddenly, after a long time apart, on a night when both were having the same disturbing dream. This common nightmare/vision seems to be rooted in events that took place when they were both in the 4th grade, and involve another neighbor, a girl named Emily who died of leukemia. For reasons that I never quite understood, Sarah decided that she and Rachel needed to come to the Vatican to deliver a letter written long-ago by Emily to the Pope; this, she believes, will release them from the frightening hold that their shared dream continues to have on them.
Fate, or something, seems to have guided them to Father Quinn, who agrees to take them on the tour even though the catacombs are officially closed. Though at first he can't make out the strange hallucinatory episodes that Rachel and Sarah experience together as they wander through the catacombs—physical manifestations of their common dream, experienced in tandem, occurring suddenly and without warning—he eventually comes to understand that they are re-enacting portions of Thomas Merton's memoir, with which he is intimately familiar. Their vision contains allusions to Blake's poem "The Tiger," as well ("Tyger! Tyger! burning bright" etc.). But these references are murky to the uninitiated, so it was difficult for me to follow or understand their significance vis-e-vis the revelations about Emily and the women's childhoods. These revelations eventually seem to put them on course toward something like catharsis; in their final visions, Rachel and Sarah achieve acceptance about key problem areas in their lives and seem poised to move on to more serene and focused futures. (But I have to admit that, again, I had trouble understanding how these life lessons related to their histories or their dream.)
This ambitious play is directed by Kelly Gillespie, who manages the complicated through-line and complex production impressively. The dream sequences include projections and video elements (it's not clear from the program who is responsible for these) and synchronized sound (by Matthew Given), all of which are spectacularly well-realized, particularly for an off-off-Broadway-scaled presentation. John Patrick is enormously appealing as Father Quinn, but neither Shae Kennedy (Sarah) nor Amy J. Carle (Rachel) made her character's (admittedly complicated) psychology clear to me; I was also aware that they probably both should have seemed significantly older than the priest in order for the play to hold together.
I can't say that I liked Trinity of Two, but I certainly applaud playwright Megna and DownTown Theatre Company for their desire to tackle such difficult and weighty subject matter.