“The Trial of God” is a play by Elie Wiesel, the critically acclaimed author of “Night.” Now, the Hinman Production Company has adapted the 1979 play, with director Tom Planamento adding a musical twist to its dark themes.
The play is about three traveling minstrels, Mendel, Avremel and Yankel, who in 1649 go to the fictional village of Shamgorod, Ukraine for the Jewish holiday of Purim. They wish to commemorate this holiday, which celebrates the defeat of a plan to get rid of Jewish people during the Persian Empire as recorded in the book of Esther, with a recital. Expecting to perform their songs and dances in return for shelter and food, they arrive at an inn, where they are not given the warmest welcome. The innkeeper, Berish, played by Ben McLauchlin, a freshman double-majoring in biology and art, does not wish to hear any stories about God, as he is upset with Him for allowing the Jewish people in his village to be massacred. He wants them to be quiet as to not awaken and upset his traumatized daughter, Hanna, played by Jessica Wallace, a junior majoring in human development, who is the only person left living in his family after the massacre.
The wanderers, who were unaware that the innkeeper and his daughter are the only Jews left in the village, stage a trial against God, where He is the defendant and must answer why he has allowed the slaughter of Jews in the village of Shamgorod. There is no one to defend God, until a mysterious stranger by the name of Sam, played by Julian Friedman, a sophomore majoring in physics, shows up and offers to be His defendant.
Mendel, Avremel and Yankel — played respectively by Jordan Gagnon, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, and Kristen DiPietra and Connor Siemer, both undeclared freshmen — took care of the musical aspect of the play. The three played instruments and sang quite well to Berish, despite his rejections to hear anything praising God. The innkeeper’s assistant, Maria, a Christian woman played by Taylor Dunn, a junior majoring in English, voiced her strong objections about the trio’s songs and dances. Her comic relief served an interesting contrast that worked well with the dark theme.
“The Trial of God” marks the directorial debut of Planamento, who’s acted in other HPC productions such as “And Then There Were None,” “The Laramie Project” and “Almost, Maine.” Last year, he was an assistant director for the HPC’s performance of “Death of a Salesman.”
“’The Trial of God’ is as challenging a play I have ever been a part of,” said Planamento, a junior majoring in history. “To delve into some of the deepest questions of Judaism, while also creating an entertaining show, we had to all do a lot of research. This show is part mystery, part courtroom drama, and part farce. It defies typical definitions, and that certainly appealed to me from the start.”
HPC’s set was mostly handmade, and had a warm feeling to it. The play takes place in the bar of an inn, asserting the status of the marginalized owners with a humble handmade door of planks and unmarked bottles in the bar. Its setting in a Ukrainian village inn was perfect for the dark theme of the play.
Bring $3 and come see the show, which will take place in the Hinman Commons at 8 p.m. on March 27 and 28, with an additional performance at 2 p.m. on March 28.