Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 30, 2008

The Atheist

Williamstown Theatre, Williamstown
through July 6

Campbell Scott excels on the Nikos Stage at Williamstown Theatre Festival. As he creates the character of Augustine Early, his solo performance has the audience disliking the man after only very few lines. Unfortunately, playwright Ronan Noone gives almost no opportunity ever to change our minds about this consistently self-interested misogynist.

Journalist Early wants the biggest fonts and the largest headlines and will do anything to achieve them – his machinations and his “Theory of Self” lead him to confuse atheism with amorality, hence the labored title of the play. A video camera at stage right records throughout the performance as Early rambles, narrates, explodes, acts out, and ‘reports’ his own story as the audience also sees intermittent glimpses of him on tape.

Early has taken meticulous interview notes as he claws his way to his 15-minutes of fame, and when he wants ‘the truth’ to be heard, and to convince that ‘Truth’ was his goal all along. His story proves otherwise. He contrives events and manipulates the people in his life. He withholds facts, discards people as abruptly as he tosses the notebooks onto the desktop in fits and rages, over as quickly as they emerge out of his superficial charm.

Here is a monster. Viewers begin to ask what can ultimately happen to this dementedly narcissistic individual, who may be disintegrating. Or perhaps we ask, “Do I know anyone even remotely like this person and how quickly can I distance myself?”

Noone’s play might be asking the question of integrity in the news business, but plot flaws about editorial procedure make that a bit silly. Perhaps the villain could have been more complex villain, but Scott never disappoints. The spare lighting and stage design support the play, and the rear-video and color projection enhanced it. The Nikos Stage is pleasantly intimate and perfectly suited for the production.