Faith and philosophy face off in GableStage’s ‘New Jerusalem’

Apr 14, 2015

Image credit: George Schiavone

By Christine Dolen

David Ives’ New Jerusalem is set in 1656, and it’s about the herem, or excommunication, of philosopher Baruch de Spinoza from Amsterdam’s Talmud Torah congregation.

But as director Joseph Adler’s new production at GableStage demonstrates, the 2008 Off-Broadway play is no stuffy historical drama (though it does unfold in a 17th century synagogue designed by Lyle Baskin, and its characters wear Ellis Tillman’s period costumes).

Yes, the script is grounded in fact and sometimes dense with philosophical and religious debate. But pause a moment to consider the frequent clash of faith-based ideas in our 21st century world, not to mention the sometimes horrific cruelty that can go along with imposing dogmatic religious beliefs on others. New Jerusalem has plenty to say to contemporary audiences.

Ives, whose plays include All in the Timing, Venus in Fur and adaptations or translations of works by Molière, Feydeau and Mark Twain, imbues his play with the restless philosophical thought of the 23-year-old Baruch de Spinoza (Abdiel Vivancos). Taking place on July 27, 1656 — the day Spinoza was banished for life from Amsterdam’s strictly regulated Jewish community — the courtroom-style drama imagines the audience as the congregation witnessing Spinoza’s examination on charges of atheism and blasphemy.


Read the full review by clicking the name of the source located below. Read a second review here.

One comment on “Faith and philosophy face off in GableStage’s ‘New Jerusalem’”

  • 1
    aroundtown says:

    But pause a moment to consider the frequent clash of faith-based ideas in our 21st century world

    It is a sad commentary that we are still mired down in the religious muck and this post touches on the point that the lengthy problem is still in play. The religious have always considered themselves a privileged group and they have little concern for those who rise up against them. Excommunication was/is a convenient way to shut you up and get you away from their flock to minimize any insurrection against the delusion. Their meddling in every human activity is legendary, as well as their denials.

    Recently their destructive attributes have found a new home in their nearly blanket denial of anthropogenic climate change. This lot knows how to place their heads firmly in the sand and ignore the obvious, but I guess that is what happens when you’ve had the amount of time to perfect an invented story like they’e had. Religious obstructionism is that crummy gift that just keeps giving and ultimately we all pay the price because of it.



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