Murder in the Cathedral | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Murder in the Cathedral


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Long before he founded Court Theatre, Nicholas Rudall was a superb actor, embodying gravitas even when playing a comic loser like Butley or describing "stately, plump Buck Mulligan" during a Bloomsday reading. Performing here as the martyred Thomas a Becket in T.S. Eliot's verse drama, Rudall will appear in a different church on five consecutive nights in these Poetry Foundation concert readings directed by Bernard Sahlins. True to its roots in morality plays and Greek drama, Murder in the Cathedral is less a play than a series of soliloquies--a debate on morality by Becket, his tempters, his murderers, and the common people. Though Eliot's narrative is overdetermined, dramatized in these settings it should raise goose bumps, especially when the Four Knights violate an actual sanctuary to carry out Henry II's murderous wish--"Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" Still, the piece shows how much less interesting Eliot's answers are than the questions he consistently asked in earlier works: how to reconcile loyalty with duty or morality with life's daily grind. By the time he published Murder in the Cathedral in 1935, Eliot had completed his journey from puzzled agnosticism to almost smug Anglican orthodoxy. And as there's no zealot like a convert, he never misses a chance to equate Becket's martyrdom with Christ's or to trumpet the infallibility of the Church of England and its archbishop. No one would choose this play over The Waste Land as a piece of literature, but then nobody ever performs The Waste Land. Don't miss this, if only for the joy of hearing Eliot read aloud by people who know how to do it. Mon 4/4, 7:30 PM, Old Saint Patrick's Church, 700 W. Adams. Tue 4/5, 7:30 PM, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn. Wed 4/6, 7:30 PM, Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, 126 E. Chestnut. Thu 4/7, 7:30 PM, Saint Paul's United Church of Christ, 2335 N. Orchard. Fri 4/8, 7:30 PM, Saint Chrysostom's Episcopal Church, 1424 N. Dearborn. $10-$20. For tickets call 312-787-7070.

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