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Elijah

The prophet Elijah holds a special place in Jewish scripture, commentary, and lore. In LOCAL Theater Company's world premiere of Michael Mitnick's Elijah: An Adventure, the young, handsome title character (Benjamin Bonenfant) possesses a number of mesmerizing assets and psychological qualities that might be associated with a charismatic seer, though the times and message are a significant departure from the ancient story.

(Left to right) Benjamin Bonenfant as Elijah and Chris Kendall as Georges Deruet
(L to R) Benjamin Bonenfant as Elijah
and Chris Kendall as Georges Deruet
Photo: Michael Ensminger
A rabbi's son, the 17-year old Elijah, travels to Paris as gift from his Father (Chris Kendall), who hopes to confirm his son's talent as a pianist with a visit to the noted (fictional) French composer, George Deruet (also Kendall).

In a effort to please his father, Elijah has kept an important secret from him, but the truth is about to catch up—though not before Elijah's good looks and easy-going nature lead to a coming-of-age awakening that samples all the seductive charms of Paris. The fever pitch wantonness of young bucks is amplified by his new acquaintance, Nicholas Stoughton (Matthew Blood-Smyth), a Princeton-bound preppy and aspiring writer from well-to-do WASP stock.

Benjamin Bonenfant as Elijah and Rachel Fowler as Elisa Broussard
Benjamin Bonenfant as Elijah
and Rachel Fowler as Élisa Broussard
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Before Elijah's life-changing exchange with Duruet takes place, he woos and is wooed by a host of beauties, including Élisa Broussard (Rachel Fowler), Frieda Hoch (Mare Trevathan) and Hélèn Roux (Barbra Andrews).


It's 1922, yet signs of the dark times to come are evident everywhere, in nationalistic hubris and poisonous anti-Semitism, personified by Frieda's husband, Otto (the always-compelling Stephen Weitz). Elijah's reaction to these hard realities is often confused, as he tries to find his way to adulthood and a set of values consistent with who he is and will become.

(Left to right) Rachel Fowler, Leah Watson, Mare Trevathan, Lauren Dennis, Barbra Andrews
(Left to right) Rachel Fowler,
Leah Watson, Mare Trevathan,
Lauren Dennis, and Barbra Andrews
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Bonenfant moves easily between character interactions and narrative passages, with Mitnick's witty and sharp dialogue serving as the catalyst. Blood-Smyth's Nicholas is a force of nature, presenting persistant challenges to Elijah. The various character cameos by the ensemble are captivating at every turn.

Director Pesha Rudnick and her designers have created a stunning production, with El Armstrong's sublime projections on the diaphanous surfaces of Kathryn Kawecki's multifaceted and economic set, William Burns jazz-infused segues, and Shannon McKinney's subtle lighting scheme.

(Left to right) Mare Trevathan as Frieda Hoch, Benjamin Bonenfant as Elijah, Stephen Weitz as Otto Hoch, and Barbra Andrews as Helen Roux
(Left to right) Mare Trevathan as Frieda Hoch,
Benjamin Bonenfant as Elijah,
Stephen Weitz as Otto Hoch,
and Barbra Andrews as Hélèn Roux
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Although Elijah returns from his sojourn a changed young man, his catharsis is not our catharsis, as we are left to wonder whether his renewed connection to his father's faith is a lasting substitute for his dream of being a composer. Given the consciousness-altering influences that Elijah experiences in Paris, we're surprised his musical interests and abilities are not affected, or at least that his commitment to them is not renewed by these experiences. As Chekhov might have said, if there are two pianos on the set, they've both got to get played.

LOCAL Theater Company's world premiere of Michael Mitnick's Elijah runs through October 7th. For more information: 303-623-0524 or www.LOCALTheaterCompany.org.

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