Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Even before its formal debut at the New Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1983, The Gospel at Colonus reached a number of enthusiastic workshop audiences in the United States and England. Its energy, its unique and intriguing blend of seemingly opposing traditions, and its moving conclusion offered audiences a fresh experience and drew rave reviews from the critics. Although many saw the play as one in a long line of gospel musicals, it is clear to the discerning reviewer that The Gospel at Colonus transcends that genre in accomplishing what interviewer Patrick Pacheco called “a song of joyous affirmation.” In fact, Lee Breuer says of the play, “It’s not a gospel show, but gospel music is used as an inspiration for re-creating a classic Greek experience, and I believe it is the correct metaphor for our time.”

Audiences and critics alike agreed with Breuer. Among the praise offered by the critics, Alan Rich noted in Newsweek that the play was “a great theatrical exultation, a jiving, shouting, hand clapping celebration.” Jack Kroll, also from Newsweek, observed that The Gospel at Colonus is “a triumph of reconciliation, bringing together black and white, pagan and Christian, ancient and modern in a sunburst of joy that seems to touch the secret heart of civilization itself.” Awards for the play included the 1984 Obie Award for best musical, the ASCAP (American Society of...

(The entire section is 401 words.)