By Darlene Donloe
Over the years the world has watched and waited with bated breath to see white smoke escape from a chimney in the Vatican to announce that a new Pope has been selected.
The priests and cardinals involved in the proceedings always look holy and reserved.
One would think that anything happening behind the walls of the Vatican would be civilized and amicable.
Behind the scenes of the Vatican is as scandalous as any soap opera.
The Last Confession, playing now through July 6, at the Ahmanson Theatre stars the exceptional David Suchet. It’s not only revealing and eye-opening entertainment, it’s a thrilling drama about power and politics in the Catholic Church at the Royal Alexandra.
What makes the show even more intriguing is that it’s based on historical fact.
The story goes like this.
In 1978, after a 15-year reign, Pope Paul VI died. What followed plays out like fiction.
(l-r) Richard O'Callaghan and David Suchet
After fighting among the College of Cardinals, a non-confrontational cleric named Albino Luciani (Richard O’Callaghan) was elected and called himself John Paul I. There were some power-hungry priests who didn’t appreciate the fact the Luciani was Pope. So, they finagled and worked some under-handedness to obtain the power they sought with no regard for anyone who got in their way. Sounds a bit like Dallas.
Who knew the priests and Cardinals could play hardball and get down and dirty?
If there’s no peace and harmony in the Vatican, does any other organization have a chance?
It’s a voyeuristic romp full of intrigue, mystery, politics and control. The show is laced with comedy and drama.
David Suchet is amazing as Cardinal Benelli, a man who is filled with guilt and who also seeks justice. It’s a complex role, but Suchet makes it look easy. Suchet is amazing to watch on stage. Best known for playing Agatha Christie’s Poirot, it’s clear that Suchet is comfortable on the stage.
O’Callaghan delivers a strong, comedic and dramatic performance. Cardinal Luciani is clearly a man who would prefer to melt into the woodwork. However, when Cardinal Benelli puts his plan in motion to get Cardinal Luciani elected to office, there’s no stopping the machine.
He gives a powerful, yet subtle performance. The supporting cast is exceptional and filled with vivid an vibrant characters!
Jonathan Church’s direction is fluid, complex, interesting and solid.
The Last Confession is first rate!
The show, written by Roger Crane, directed by Church, also stars David Bannerman, Nigel Bennett, Ezra Bix, Pier Carthew, Kevin Colson, Philip Craig, Donald Douglas, Sheila Ferris, David Ferry, Mark Hammersley, Peter Harding, Marvin Ishmael, Roy Lewis, Bernard Lloyd, Stuart Milligan, Richard O’Callaghan, John O’May, Sam Parks and George Spartels.
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no!), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), The Last Confession gets and E (excellent).
The Last Confession, The Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; 8 p.m. Tues-Fri., 2 and 8 p.m. Sat. and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sun.; no Monday performances. No 6:30 p.m. performance on Sun., June 29; added 2 p.m. performance on Thur., June 26. No performance on Fri., July 4; Tickets: $20-$105; www.CenterTheatreGroup.org or 213 972-4400.