The Passion: Doug Barry of Radix Relives Jesus’ Final Hours
A National Catholic Register "Video/DVD Picks" film.
By Steven D. Greydanus
Not to be confused with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, Doug Barry’s The Passion is a one-man stage production — not quite a one-man play, but a semi-improvised dramatic meditation on the passion of Jesus Christ.
Veteran Catholic performer Barry, who calls his apostolate Radix, has been doing his live one-man passion play for a decade, accompanied for most of that time by his musical partner, Eric Genuis. One recorded version has played for a number of years on EWTN around Holy Week. This version, filmed live in 2003 at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, TN, benefits from enhanced production values including multiple cameras.
For most of The Passion’s 90-minute length, Barry adopts the perspective of St. John to reflect upon the theological meaning as well as the events of Jesus’ passion. Barry’s John isn’t limited to a first-century understanding, but speaks the idiom of his modern-day audience, and his reflections are informed by developed Catholic doctrine, modern medical understanding regarding the physiology of crucifixion, and evils of the modern world.
A few of Barry’s choices may seem curious. During the Garden of Gethsemane sequence, as Jesus foresees all the sins of future generations, Barry calls out a litany of such evils as abortion, during which he briefly but vividly adopts the personas of a pair of modern-day children left out of activities by inattentive parents. No other modern woe is given dramatic force comparable to this flash of "Cat’s in the Cradle" parental guilt, which may seem a bit disproportionate, though it’s doubtless a popular touch in Barry’s act.
But the strengths of Barry’s Passion outweigh its weaknesses. An energetic, impassioned performer, Barry’s charged performance and sweaty physicality bring an intensity and conviction to rival Gibson’s production. In fact, Barry’s The Passion in some ways ideally complements Gibson’s film, providing the interpretive context in which the events in Gibson’s film must be understood.
© 2004 Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.