Authored By: Adina C. Brizel
One of the many treasures in the archives of Marymount Manhattan College is the William B. Harris papers. Harris, a theater and dance critic for the SoHo Weekly News and Theatre Crafts magazine accumulated over 96 unpublished play scripts and 4,450 archived boxes of clippings connected to various authors and playwrights over a thirty year period. When Harris died in 2000, his family donated his entire collection to the performing arts library at Marymount.
“Sinners and Saints” was a modern morality play presented at the Croydon Warehouse Theater in 1989. “James Mundy” is a pseudonym of British playwright and actor Robin Soans. As “Mundy,” he also wrote the play “Bet Noir,” which was released in 1987. Soans is still an active playwright and activist, and is actively involved with a theater troupe dedicated to exploring issues pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have selected this review, which comes from the British newspaper The Times of London, where Harry Eyres worked as a theater critic.
The title of the play “Sinners and Saints” shares its name with a local pub in Croydon, which tourists can still visit to this day. The theater came under new management in 2012, and it operates today as the Warehouse Phoenix Theater.
The play tells the story of Stephen, an impoverished homosexual man, who constantly engages in“endless selfless servicing of lost souls” in London. One of his “patients” is Ivy, a raped anorexic teenager, whom Stephen moves into his apartment, and feeds daily. A second “patient” adopted by Stephen is Ben, an old amputated World War II veteran. Stephen personally changes Ben’s diapers dailydue to Ben’s lack of lower body functioning. In order to obtain money to continue helping them, Stephen raises money among the upper classes of British society by offering them homosexual favors.
Stephen is dedicated to his mission, and gives to Ivy and Ben out of a sense of ethics and mercy to those who would otherwise be neglected by society. Yet at the same time, Mundy presents Ben and Ivy as sympathetic and multi-dimensional characters in their own right, and not merely as Stephen’s “patients.” The viewer is meant to acknowledge the humanity of Ivy and Ben, as two souls who deserve empathy and respect.
When one first encounters Stephen, one might judge him negatively for the way he raises money to continue his acts of service for the poor. However, when one looks on Stephen through the Lens of Vincentian Transparency, one should contrast Stephen’s selfless acts of service with the hedonistic lifestyles of the wealthy. In her contemporaneous review for the Sunday Telegraph, Anne McFerran praises Stephen as a model of unconditional love for Ivy and Ben and he simply “cannot help but devote his energies to others.”
1. “Archives.” Marymount Manhattan College. Accessed on February 23, 2015. http://www.mmm.edu/offices/library/archives.php.
6 McFerran, Ann. Theater review of ‘Sinners and Saints’ (Croydon). The Sunday Telegraph, 1989.