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Veteran actor takes on two roles in double bill

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Alon Nashman
Alon Nashman. Nathan Kelly photo

Toronto-based actor Alon Nashman’s latest role is one of biblical proportions. That’s because he’s playing Lot in Sunday in Sodom, a feminist retelling of the Sodom and Gomorrah story.

It’s one of two new plays by the Governor General’s Award-winning Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill that the Canadian Stage is mounting at the Berkley Street Theatre from April 26 to May 15.

Tannahill’s double bill will include Sunday in Sodom along with Botticelli in the Fire which explores the religious fervor that gripped Renaissance-era Florence as its citizens – led by Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola – burned licentious items such art, books and even mirrors.

In that play, Nashman is Savonarola. “It’s a beautifully drawn role of somebody who is very sincerely devout and who is able to inflame the people to identify their problems as being caused by the luxurious tastes and the immorality of the ruling classes,” says Nashman. He describes his character as a populist and a dogmatist who whips Florence into zealous frenzy.

READ: TORONTO ACTOR/SINGER TACKLES A DIFFERENT KIND OF ROLE

“The other play is a kind of modern Midrash to explain why Lot’s wife turns around,” he says of Sunday in Sodom. The show unfolds from Lot’s wife’s (played by Valerie Buhagiar) perspective.

It’s set in Sodom, yet this ancient metropolis exists in the modern-day world.  There are CNN news broadcasts on television as the city is under the imminent threat of attack.

The show starts with a call from Isaac (Stephen Jackman-Torkoff) to Lot’s wife; Isaac’s scared because his father just tried to kill him. Lot’s story doesn’t take up too much room in Genesis, but Nashman notes that Tannahill’s version stays true to the text while greatly expanding upon it.

And although Tannahill’s written two distinct plays, they maintain a clear thematic link; both deal with the devastating consequences of unrestricted hedonism. They’re also connected by certain musical and visual cues.

For this production, CanStage partnered with the Department of Theatre at York University and two graduating MFA students are directing the shows.

Matjash Mrozewski is directing Botticelli in the Fire. She’s a well-known choreographer who’s now making the leap to theatre. Estelle Shook’s leading Sunday in Sodom; she was the artistic director the British Columbia’s Caravan Farm Theatre.

READ: SHOW-BIZ COUSINS STAR IN BIBLICAL-BASED TWO BY TWO

Nashman describes the two as the most innovative directors he’s worked with in years.

Along with these two plays, Nashman will also be performing an offstage role at the Tarragon Theatre’s technological thriller The Summoned from April 27 until May 29. He’ll also be narrating Tafelmusik’s Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House from May 19 to 24.

For now though, he’s looking forward to having audiences see Tannahill’s latest work for the first time. “It’s just amazing what Jordan has done in terms of riffing on the Bible,” say Nashman. “It’s entertaining and devastating material.”

Botticelli in the Fire and Sunday in Sodom run until May 15. For tickets call 416-368-3110 or click here.

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