Backstage Review: ‘Akhnaton’ at Bruka Theater

A visionary who is ahead of his time finds no solace from the people around him. “Akhnaton” had a vision of what could be but alas his dreams were short-lived.

~Review and photos by Dana Nollsch~

‘Akhnaton’ was written by Agatha Christie in 1937 and published in 1973 while she was researching and writing Death on the Nile. Agatha Christie never intended to publish “Akhnaton”, she enjoyed writing for fun and thought that this play would be too expensive to produce. She changed her mind when the Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibition got so much attention.

The story has many layers as does the production. The story centers around “Akhnaton” who sees his power as ruler of Egypt as an opportunity to shift how people live, worship, and create. Where he finds trouble is when he forces the change from a Polytheism based society to a Monotheism based society. This change was not well received and the ripple effects of this change almost destroyed Egypt and their allies.

The layers of the production are also quite intense. The set is more of a Jenga game with many changes that end up being a bit of a dance as the performers move and build the pieces in preparation of the scene to come. The actors also build the layers of the story with their powerful performances. The performers are outstanding in creating their characters and delivering performances you will be talking about long after you have seen the play.

“Akhnaton” is intense on many levels and complex, this is why there are three acts and runs just over two hours.

Here are some photos from the preview performance, not all of the set was finished being painted but as you will see the costuming is wonderful and each set change is very well done. The costuming was done by Lyndsey Langsdale and the set design was created by Lewis Zaumeyer.

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There are some underlining themes that parallel the challenges that our world is facing at this time in our history. When you watch “Akhnaton” see if you pick up on what I saw as I watched the play.

Cast:

AKHNATON ……………..…………………………………… JOHN PAUL RIVARD
NEFERTITI ………………………………………………… ANJALI MATHEWSON
HOREMHEB …………………………………………………………. GREG KLINO
NEZZEMUT ….……………………………….……… ALEXANDRIA PAULETTO
MERIPTAH ………………………………………………..…………….. JON LUTZ
TYI …………………………………..……………………… JACQUELINE FISHER
PARA ……………………..………………………………….. LEA PENNINGTON
CITIZEN FEMALE 1 ………………………………………………….. PARIS RICH
CITIZEN FEMALE 2 ……………………………………………… LILI GARAJEDA
CITIZEN FEMALE 3 …………………………………………… ANNA CHRISTINE
CITIZEN MALE 1 ……………………………………………………. LUKE NELSON
CITIZEN MALE 2 ………………………………………………… JAYTON NEWBURY
CITIZEN MALE 3 …………………………………………………….. JAKE STEINMAN

Crew:

DIRECTOR …….…………………………………………….…… LEWIS ZAUMEYER
STAGE MANAGER ……………………..…….…..……………. STEPHEN DUNN
SET DESIGN/BUILD …..……………………….………….… LEWIS ZAUMEYER
LIGHTING & SOUND DESIGN & OPERATION ……………. DAVID SIMPSON
COSTUME DESIGN …….……………………….……… LYNDSEY LANGSDALE
PROPS …………..………………………………….………… LEWIS ZAUMEYER
LIGHTING & SOUND OPERATION …………………. SHAWNA LEE CASTRO
POSTER DESIGN …….………….…………………………….. MARY BENNETT

“Akhnaton” plays through March 23rd, 2019.

For more information check out Bruka’s website: http://www.bruka.org/

2 thoughts on “Backstage Review: ‘Akhnaton’ at Bruka Theater

  • March 10, 2019 at 10:08 am
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    Akhnaton by Agatha Christie was a delight to see, and the cast and crew worked their hearts out to deliver a top shelf performance. Agatha Christie is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most read novelist. What’s more, she took murder out of the back alley and put it into the parlor where it rightfully belongs. How can one not stand up and applaud that?

    But to understand this play more deeply one must understand the times, the zeitgeist if you will. Agatha Christie wrote Akhnaton in 1937 just a year before the Anschluss when Adolf Hitler invaded Austria and incorporated it into his Germany, and he demanded Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland from Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. World War I was fresh in the mind and had been horrific. 2 million soldiers had been killed in the Battle of the Somme alone for a few yards of real estate. Britain and France were in no mood to fight another war. Pacifism was in the air. There was even talk of outlawing war altogether. Only Winston Churchill sounded the alarm against pacifism in the face of Hitler’s aggression. And Christie was a woman of those times. Hitler could have been taken out in 1938, but nobody but Churchill had the stomach for it. When World War II was almost over our President Franklin Roosevelt asked Churchill what the war should be called. Churchill responded, “The Unnecessary War”. Bottom line: World War II killed 50 million people in Asia, 50 million in Europe, and 50 million Europeans were left permanently homeless. The Asian homeless count is unknown.

    At the beginning of World War II Germany’s General Staff didn’t want to invade France because French and British forces were too powerful. The German General Staff saw that clearly. Hitler disagreed. He thought that they had given up the will to resist. And he was painfully correct. Germany invaded. France resisted Germany for 4+ years in World War I, but France fell in 4+ weeks in World War II. But for a boneheaded move by Hitler the majority of the British Army would have been wiped out in its retreat from Dunkirk in France. Only Churchill’s conscripting every ship, boat, and vessel bigger than a bathtub for an evacuation saved the day. 450,000 British soldiers were deployed to France. 400,000 made it back to Britain. 50,000 were left to their fate on the shores of France.

    Akhnaton the play was a delight to watch, all 3-plus hours of it. But don’t draw the wrong conclusion. To my mind only when one understands the context in which the play was written and its aftermath does he understand the importance of this play. Akhnaton’s pacifism was a disaster for Egypt just as was Chamberlain’s for Europe. Please don’t let Agatha Christie’s apparent pacifism fool you, either. This play is current. This play matters.

    Reply
  • March 11, 2019 at 7:47 am
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    CORRECTION:
    This essay incorrectly states World War II killed 50 million people in Europe and 50 million people in Asia. It should have read World War II killed 50 million people, 20 million of whom were in Europe and 30 million of whom were in Asia.

    Reply

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