By Tom Campisi
I saw the play on a brisk January evening at the Acorn Theatre in Manhattan. It was the end of a long work week, with the usual deadlines and activity. But two-and-a-half hours later, after seeing “A Man for All Seasons” in the shadow of Broadway, myself and about 200 others in attendance seemed to re-enter the cold New York night energized and renewed after witnessing how the courage of one man can inspire the soul.
“A Man for All Seasons,” Robert Bolt’s Tony Award winning play about Sir Thomas More, is produced by Fellowship for Performing Arts and playing through March 3 at the Acorn Theatre, 410 W. 42nd Street in Manhattan.
Michael Countryman is brilliant as More, the lawyer, statesman, and philosopher who refuses to recognize Henry VIII’s divorce and ascendancy as Supreme Head of the new Church of England. Despite the steady crumbling of his world, More becomes increasingly resolute with each scene, even despite desperate pleas from family and friends who urge him to bow to the immense pressure exerted from the throne.
Max McLean, the founder and artistic director of Fellowship for Performing Arts, said this kind of devotion to faith is striking a chord with audiences.
“We felt ‘A Man for All Seasons’ would resonate with contemporary New York audiences. Many who have seen the production, including theatre reviewers, have noted how the clash between fierce political will and deep moral conviction strikes a current chord. Newsweek said, ‘It could not be more timely.’ ”
“A Man for All Seasons” is certainly timeless, exactly the kind of work utilized by Fellowship for Performing Arts as it produces theatre from a Christian worldview. In December, FPA presented C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters in New York. In the fall, McLean toured Brown, Princeton, and Cal-Berkeley universities as Lewis in “The Most Reluctant Convert.”
The goal is that “audience members of every faith or of no faith might be led to question their own assumptions about faith in Christ,” said McLean.
“We strive to do that in a way that is thoughtful, imaginative, multi-layered, winsome and with excellence.”
“A Man for All Seasons” features a talented, veteran cast. Countryman (Broadway: M. Butterfly, Six Degrees of Separation, TV: The Path) stars as Sir Thomas More, with Carolyn McCormick (Broadway: Equus, TV: Law and Order) as his wife, Lady Alice More. The cast also features John Ahlin (Broadway: Waiting for Godot, Journey’s End) and Olivier Award nominee Kevyn Morrow (Ragtime), as well as three-time Daytime Emmy nominee Trent Dawson, Drama Desk Award winner David McElwee (The Wayside Motor Inn), Todd Cerveris (Broadway: South Pacific, TV: Homeland), Kim N. Wong (The Hard Problem, TV: The Deuce), Sean Dugan (Broadway: Next Fall, TV: Smash) and Harry Bouvy (Wicked National Tour). “A Man for All Seasons” is directed by Christa Scott-Reed (Shadowlands).
Great acting, set design, and a breathtaking account of a dearly devout Catholic leader help answer a profound question posed by Bolt in his 1960 preface to the play:
Why did a man so utterly absorbed in his society, at one particular point disastrously part company from it? …For More the answer to this question would be perfectly simple (though not easy); the English Kingdom, his immediate society, was subservient to the larger society of the Church of Christ, founded by Christ, extending over Past and Future, ruled from Heaven.
More’s Christian faith is certainly the center of the story. When forced to choose between his allegiance to the God he loves and his duty to his King, his faith in Christ is what guides his decision, Mclean said.
“This story of a man giving his all for conscience sake is just so moving. There is something soul-stirring about someone who faces outrageous injustice and is willing to stand for what He believes in.”
For tickets, visit fpatheatre.com or call (212) 239-6222.