The 7th Sign
ZASTROZZI: THE MASTER OF DISCIPLINE
By GEORGE W. WALKER
Arclight Theatre, 152 W. 71 St., NYC, October 6 – 23, 2005
Directed by ADAM PARRISH
Lighting Design NICK KOLIN
Set Design BRIAN COTE
Costume Design KATJA ANDREIEV
Sound and Props Design JARED SILVER
Fight Director KC STAGE
Stage Manager CAITLYN LARSSON
Publicist SCOTTI RHODES
Daniel Deferrari – Zastrozzi
Orion Taraban – Bernardo
Charlie Wilson – Verezzi
Matt Harrington – Victor
Emily Stern – Matilda
Elliotte Crowell - Julia
ZASTROZZI: THE MASTER OF DISCIPLINE is a study of the battle between good and evil as told through the tale of two men, Verezzi the religious artist, and Zastrozzi the atheist. The latter is a notorious European criminal who has never been caught. The former, a delusional but seemingly harmless man who believes himself to be a saint, a messenger of God or the Messiah, is actually escaping from his murderous past into a peaceful world of his own imagination.
Throw into the mix a former priest, a bloodthirsty follower, an aristocratic virgin, and Europe’s greatest seductress, and the battle lines would appear to be delineated rather fiercely and assuredly from the moment the first signs of onstage lightning begin to illuminate the sparse set. ZASTROZZI takes place in the 19th Century, and has been aptly described as a "swashbuckling satire." It certainly has the look of it, from the costumes to the abundant sword fights.
From the dialogue, the good the bad, the ugly and the seductive of ZASTROZZI are clearly indicated. When considering the performances, however, if taken literally, most of the depictions are hollow, as if the actors, like the stereotypes or archetypes they represent, are only what we see on the surface. The brutality, the passion and even the violence do not ring true. Daniel Deferrari, as Zastrozzi, says the lines, fights the fights, adopts the stances and entertains the inner demons, but there is no sense of evil emanating from his portrayal of a man who kills without thought, steals, rapes, beats and denigrates all from friend to foe. Nemesis Verezzi, played with adolescent abandon by Charlie Wilson, certainly seems oblivious to reality, but never pious. Henchman Bernardo (Orion Taraban) and seductress Matilda (Emily Stern) seem to exist solely to please and serve Zastrozzi, and so there is an automaton quality to their actions. In contrast, Verezzi’s protector Victor (Matt Harrington) and local lady Julia (Elliotte Crowell) exhibit the capability to think for themselves, providing the only grounding points in the play.
Viewed through an alternate lens however, as social satire, one may find ZASTROZZI to be quite on the mark – a world in which people act in accord with what they profess to believe and whom they profess to be whether or not it comes from the heart, and where only the peripheral characters exhibit any sort of depth. Taken on this level, the play seems rather timely and poignant. An atheistic arch criminal who cannot be caught, even hiding in plain sight, who has set his sights on hunting down and destroying a good Christian? It is a little like the world at large reduced to a battle between two men.
Constructive criticism aside, I do think that audiences will find ZASTROZZI: THE MASTER OF DISCIPLINE interesting, especially when not taken too literally.
- Kessa De Santis -