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Photos by Right Image Photography Inc.

PENTECOST by David Edgar

Plot Summary

In an unspecified Balkan country in the 1990s a fresco is discovered in a crumbling historic building that has through history served as an Orthodox and Catholic church, a mosque, a stable, a prison, and a communist museum.

The discovery may turn accepted art history on its head and could place the country on the map. Gabriella, a local museum curator, hopes so, but she and Oliver, a British art historian, are plunged into a diplomatic and cultural struggle over the ownership of the building and the future of the fresco. While churchmen, nationalists, and the pragmatic American art expert, Leo Katz argue, a group of international refugees take them hostage, demanding asylum. Throughout the rest of Pentecost language barriers break down and Oliver discovers a new appreciation (and attribution) for the fresco until soldiers take back the building, overpowering the hostage-takers.

Themes & Parallels

Workshopped during the breakup of Yugoslavia and the conflict between its ethnic groups, the heart of the play is language in the fragmenting Eastern Europe following the Cold War. Each character in the play speaks his or her own language. The audience gathers the gist from the reactions of others or from translations into English, occasionally translating in a way that’s self-serving or misleading. In the church the term Pentecost refers to the moment the Holy Spirit imparted a miraculous ability to speak and understand a multitude of languages, a symbol of unity. In the play language represents much more of a tactical tool deployed in the defense of individuality, nationalism, and/or self-expression.

Related to the use of language is the overall theme of identity that guides the play. Whether it be individual identity, national identity, the attribution of the fresco, or the ownership of the church building itself, defining identity is the core concept of the piece and the question with which all its characters must grapple.

Characters and Actors

View trailer here.

GABRIELLA Pecs, National museum art curator /

OLIVER Davenport, English art historian / Marc Carver

Father Sergei BOJOVIC, Orthodox / Greg Paul

Father Petr KAROLYI, Catholic / Matt Hager

Mikhail CZABA, minister / Tim Davis

PUSBAS, leader of Heritage / Jon Fitts

LEO Katz, American art historian / Brian Linden

Anna JEDLIKOVA, former dissident / Julie Oliver

TONI Newsome, English TV hostess (hostage) / Mikaela Sccoccio

YASMIN, Palestinian Kuwaiti refugee / Jeanine Frost

RAIF, Azeri refugee / Max Hanau

ANTONIO, Mozambican refugee / Gil Faison

AMIRA, Bosnian refugee / Julie Oliver

MARINA, Russian refugee / Maggie Lea

GRIGORI, Ukrainian refugee / Jeff Aguiar

ABDUL, Afghan refugee / Jon Fitts

TUNU, Sri Lankan refugee / Steph Scribner

NICO, “Bosnian” Roma refugee / Tim Davis

CLEOPATRA, “Bosnian” Roma refugee / Elise Kimple

FATIMA, Kurdish refugee / Rebecca Bosen

Production History

12 October 1994 RSC/The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon Directed by Michael Attenborough
9 November 1995 Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven Directed by Stan Wojewodski, Jr.
23 August 1997 Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland Directed by Tony Taccone
19 September 1997 Berkley Repatory Theatre, Berkley Directed by Tony Taccone
26 January 2007 Burning Coal Theatre, Raleigh, NC Directed by Jerome Davis