Narrated by none other than William Shakespeare, play leads Moriarty’s alter ego, Ernest Hart, on a journey through time and space, from Elizabethan England to modern New York and London, and finally on a pilgrimage to Florence in a quest for God and beauty.
The works of Dante and Virgil as well as those of Shakespeare frame the trek, which is ultimately one man’s search for his relationship to God.
For Moriarty himself, who courageously confesses in the guise of Hart that his true desire had always been “to be the greatest actor the world had ever known,” this quest takes on a powerful emotional dimension, which leads him through a wrenching self-examination.
Moriarty never refers specifically to his own turbulent life, but brings the powerful subtext of experience to Hart’s torment.
Moriarty introduces two other characters to the central dialogue: Amelia Lanier, Shakespeare’s former lover here and a candidate for the “Dark Lady,” and Francis Xavier, an Irish-American “regular guy.”
Lanier soars around the stage, full of passion and contempt for Shakespeare; the playwright confesses the power that Amelia, and all women, have over him, calling them part of the Trinity — Father, Son and All Women.
Xavier, clearly an integral part of Moriarty’s character, chimes in with an existential version of a Bronx cheer, continually reminding Ernest of both the absurdities and exigencies of “real life.”
As a writer, Moriarty has crafted a marvelously intricate exploration into the spiritual themes of life from the perspective of the artist trying to define himself in a world where art seems to have little place. “I started a theater company to perform your plays,” says Ernest to Shakespeare at one point. “Now that was a mistake.”
Moriarty clearly draws on the Jesuit tradition of inquiry that uses argument and disputation to attain enlightenment. In this tradition, life can become an intellectual and artistic carnival. It’s what Moriarty creates in his play.
As an actor, Moriarty brings a naturalism and intensity to the stage, peeking out from behind his characters, then diving back into them with verve. But always, as in his writing, there is an active and searching mind at work.
At one point in the piece, Ernest muses that the theater is not a place but rather an experience — sort of a “metaphysical car wash.” After an evening with Moriarty, one’s soul has, if not been cleansed, at least been invigorated and renewed.