Review: The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, and Count Leo Tolstoy

Photo credit: The Hollywood Reporter

What do an American Founding Father, an English writer/actor, and a Russian novelist have in common? According to Scott Carter’s The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord, very little and “all too much” at the same time.

The play, running at Cherry Lane Theatre until October 22, 2017, explores three of the greatest writers and thinkers in history in an entertaining, yet thought-provoking manner. In a mind-boggling warp of time, all three men find themselves trapped in the same room immediately following their deaths, decades apart from each other. They all know they are dead, and believe that they must fulfill some purpose in order to move on to the next stage of what must be the afterlife. The only hint to their task? A desk containing a journal, a pen, and a Bible.

As they muse on what exactly they have in common, they realize that they are all Gospelists: each has written his own version of the Bible according to his ideals. Initially, they believe they are to collaborate and write a Bible showcasing all of their grand ideals. However, in bursts of wit and anger, they come to realize that each is stubborn to his own views and wordings. The Goseplists must convince the other two that his own version of the Gospel is right. They write and argue, and eventually, reveal both their great achievements and their greatest flaws.

Now admittedly, the basic synopsis of the story sounds dry. However, Carter makes sure to keep audience members on the edge of their seats by seamlessly juxtaposing moments of rage with ones of wit and times of pride with ones of despair. All three men quip in with their one-liners here and there, even as they reveal profound thoughts about the most well-known book in the history of the world. Actors Duane Boutte, Michael Laurence, and Thom Sesma are flawless, and the original music—composed by Lindsay Jones—is perfectly in tune with the emotions found onstage.

Overall, the play is an excellent work that truly dives into the mind of three great, deeply flawed men. A commentary on how even the most brilliant of minds and sharpest of wits cannot hide the dark sins of their pasts, Discord is highly recommended for those who are willing to see deep into the hearts of these men—and all of mankind.

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