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‘The Plague’

Praxis Stage presents Camus adaptation

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
‘The Plague’
The cast of Praxis Stage’s production of “The Plague.”photo: courtesy of Praxis Stage

Praxis Stage has pushed the theatrical envelope once again with the U.S. premiere of “The Plague,” adapted by Neil Bartlett from Albert Camus’ novel “La Peste.” As in the original, the updated version features the spread of a plague, which leads to the quarantine of a nondescript city from the rest of the world. The study of humanity dealing with a crisis serves as an elegant allegory for the present day.

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Director Daniel Boudreau says, “We see it largely as a commentary on the way we live now, with this sense of hyper-individuality that in fact leads to feelings of isolation and destabilization.”

Camus’ novel, published in 1947, was quickly utilized as an anti-Nazi allegory. One of the several poignant themes that resurfaces in “The Plague,” is that of propaganda. Particularly in the world of social media and the internet, media images exacerbating fear, anger and distrust are everywhere. Boudreau notes similar phenomena during American crises like Hurricane Katrina, when reports of looters and baby killers, which later proved to be false, worsened an already challenging situation. Now with fake news and unreliable sources everywhere, the role of media and information hits close to home.

A rare outing

Boudreau received permission from Bartlett to present “The Plague.” This is the only show being performed outside of Bartlett’s own direction in London’s West End. The expert cast includes, among others, Dayenne Walters, who directed and performed in Praxis Stage’s recent production of  “For Colored Girls”; Danny Mourino, a longtime Praxis talent; and Michael Rodriguez, recently seen in Flat Earth’s “Antigone.”

Praxis Stage has pushed an avant-garde theatre agenda since the group’s inception in 2016. “At Praxis Stage, we understand art, and particularly theater, as a powerful tool to resist and oppose such cultural political currents,” says Boudreau, “and also as an instrument that can break through fear and challenge the powerful’s dominant narratives of collapse and combative-individualism.”

The performance splits between two venues. From May 11 to 20, the production runs at Dorchester Art Project, and from May 23 to 27, it’s hosted by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. All seats are $20. The dual location promotes accessibility to theatre, a mission dear to Boudreau’s heart, and also illustrates the transcendent message of the script. Not held down by heavy sets, costumes or time periods, the show could be performed anywhere, for anyone and carry a similar weight.

Though sharp and analytical, the message of “The Plague” is ultimately optimistic. As Camus said, “There is more to admire about people than to despise or despair of.”

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