Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: The Conversion of Thais the Whore

The Conversion of Thais the WhoreFort Fringe – The Shop

Remaining Performances:

Saturday, July 20, 1:00 p.m.
Tuesday, July 23, 8:15 p.m.
Friday, July 26, 9:45 p.m.

They Say: "The Conversion of Thais the Whore tells of a powerful courtesan who is forcibly converted and tortured by the hermit Pafnutius. Will she burn for her sins in eternal damnation? Or will she destroy her body to save her soul?"

Brett's Take: She'll destroy her body to save her soul. The point of this production is not the suspense; The Conversion of Thais the Whore is a 1000-year old play about a 1600-year old saint. The point of this production is to give us the privilege of getting to observe and react to a story with morality so outdated, it feels outright alien.

Except, of course, that's it not alien to quite a lot of people living today – only to anyone likely to attend Farmatic Productions' committed, declamatory presentation. The story, brief as it is, concerns the unimpeachable holy man Pafnutius (Noah Cooper-Hauser) and his attempt to save Thais (Chelsea Thaler), a beautiful and wealthy whore who believes in God but nevertheless continues her trade. With a single sentence —namely, her admission she must be aware that she is damning her customers to Hell—Thais is instantly converted and spends the next three years willfully suffering in her own filth in a cell to make penance. The ordeal kills her, but not before a disciple (Lauren Neville) has a vision that God has forgiven her, thus meaning that she can die happily.

Each rhyming line, translated from Medieval playwright Hroswitha of Gandersheim's Latin original and played unironically by the young, strong company, is stranger to hear than the last. Director/actor Michael Poandl makes precisely four non-scriptural choices that suggest some kind of point of view, the most representative being the orgasmic take that Neville gives the disciple's vision. Otherwise, he lets us watch the story unadulterated.  We're invited to wonder at just how relevant Thais' martyrdom/Stockholm Syndrome still is today, and why, and whether or not that's a good thing.

The downside is—partially thanks to the company graciously cutting out some of the most didactic speechifying from the play—the entire thing is precisely thirty minutes, or nearly 60 cents a minute. The cost isn't the company's fault, but it is rather expensive for what amounts to a living exhibit.

See it if: You've got a little time in between your hours of burlesque and wacky musicals and want to slot in some attractively presented, slightly upsetting food for thought.

Skip it if: You want to get some bang for your buck—or even just a little pop and sizzle.

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