Review: ‘Edgardo Mine’

After learning that a Catholic housemaid had clandestinely baptized a Jewish boy in his home, the 19th-century Pope Pius IX ordered the child taken from his parents and brought to him in the Vatican. The ensuing international scandal would lead to the dissolving of the Papal States.

Faith is notoriously pliable in its utility for justifying the unjustifiable, and Alfred Uhry’s “Edgardo Mine” delves into European history for a compelling example. After learning that a Catholic housemaid had clandestinely baptized a Jewish boy in his home, the 19th-century Pope Pius IX ordered the child taken from his parents and brought to him in the Vatican. The ensuing international scandal would lead to the dissolving of the Papal States.

This Guthrie show was first produced at Hartford Stage in 2002; this revision sees the play expanded and the drama centered firmly on the adults rather than young Edgardo himself.

In the early going, the results are mixed. Riccardo Hernandez’s set of huge classical columns evokes stately grandeur, particularly when starkly framed by Mimi Jordan Sherin’s lighting design. But amid a flurry of exposition and fragmented scenes, the sterile storytelling makes an emotional core difficult to locate.

Following the intermission, the audience’s perseverance is rewarded. Brian Murray, who reprises his role as Pius from the Hartford production, inhabits Pius with an unshakeable faith in his own benevolence. This proves a perfect match for Edgardo’s mother, Marianna (Jennifer Regan), who spars with Pius in a scene of barbed precision. Pius’ faith in his own actions has destroyed Marianna’s, along with her devotion to her husband, Momolo (Ron Menzel), and, Regan suggests, her ability to view much of anything with untainted eyes.

Uhry based his drama on David I. Kertzer’s 1997 book “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Montara,” and in the early going the weight of faithful adaptation is fully visible. Still, Uhry extracts both a weighty intellectualism and a crushing emotionalism at times from the scenario, and he resolutely refuses to paint in blacks and whites.

The final irony of the real Edgardo’s life, revealed at the end, is odd enough to make the audience wonder where indeed the line might be drawn between reality and drama.

Edgardo Mine

Guthrie Theater, Mcguire Proscenium Stage, Minneapolis; 700 Seats; $52 Top

Production

A Guthrie Theater presentation of a play in two acts by Alfred Uhry. Directed by Mark Lamos.

Creative

Sets, Riccardo Hernandez; lighting, Mimi Jordan Sherin; production stage manager, Chris A. Code. Opened, reviewed Nov. 10, 2006. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.

Cast

Marianna Mortara - Jennifer Regan Pope Pius IX (Nono) - Brian Murray Momolo Mortara - Ron Menzel Cardinal Antonelli - Stephen D'Ambrose Nina Morisi, Signora Scazzocchio - Nancy Rodriguez Il Dottore, Fr. Feletti, Gramont - J.C. Cutler Lucidi, Sabatino Scazzocchio, Riccardo Mortara - Tyson Forbes Fr. Giovanni, Austrian Soldier, Agostini, Rally Speaker - Sasha Andreev
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