The Book of Daniel, King James Version
The Old Testament Book of Daniel—which Howard and I reread before our attendance at the Medieval festival play based on it—is certainly one of the strangest books of the Bible. Although it contains three of the most famous stories of biblical literature—the burning and resurrection of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Belshazzar's inability to read the writing on the wall, and Daniel's imprisonment in the lion's den—much of the story is a revelation-like maze of dreams, foretellings, and detailed interpretations of those dreams.
Similarly, he interprets the writing on the wall for Nebuchadnezzar's son Belshazzar, again predicting the fall of the empire, but is praised nonetheless for his ability.
I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom
men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; for he is
the living God, and steadfast for ever, and his kingdom that
which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even
unto the end.
But these are the least complex of the that book's events. Much more perplex are the interweaving of dreams and tales, some told directly by Daniel, others by the kings. The texts quickly shift in form and content, one dream standing out almost as a surreal series of images that might be at home in any contemporary, animated science fiction flick.
The production I saw was clearly revised and "filled in" with full choruses and orchestras, vast dances and a request for the audience to share in singing the closing song.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels was filled with people of great racial and financial diversity (tickets were free), along with numerous children which were highly entertained by the long processions through the aisles of kings (Belshazzar, likeably played by Yohan Yi, and Darius by Robert MacNeil), queens (Danielle Walker), and an angel upon stilts (Caleb Barnes). The lions, for my taste, were too reminiscent of The Lion King, but obviously delighted the children in our midst.
I might wish to see this grand spectacle in a production performed closer to the original and directed more in the spirit of emblematic tableauxs rather than with such narrative flourish; Conlon's and Villanueva's production clearly served its purposes, bringing spiritual enlightenment to the audience through the more flowing and musically narrative passages. I admit that overall the production even brought tears to my eyes.
Los Angeles, March 10, 2010