Review by Brenda Repland
The seventh annual Dream Up Festival, dedicated to new works, presents the world premiere of “Spinoza’s Ethics.
Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was a Dutch enlightenment philosopher. He is considered one of the most influential philosophers in the years after Descartes and a pioneer of modern biblical criticism. “Ethics” was his final work and dealt with a view of the Judeo-Christian God as the infinite nature of all living things.
This play is based on a true story and traces the life of Ruth as she moves from a nunnery to that of world traveler. Meeting with Spinoza will have a profound effect on her world view. Her story is interlaced with the philosophies of Spinoza as the characters take turns reading from his “Ethics,” which are then depicted in numerous time periods. These concern questions about the nature of life, religion, marriage and the place of humankind in all of it.
Of particular interest are the consistencies and divergences across time. Just as Spinoza is criticized for his writings and contemplations, so is Ruth for “thinking” too much and asking too many questions while in the nunnery (and beyond). Why are we humans so often afraid of exploring new concepts?
Both James Weeks, as Spinoza and Arielle Yoder, as Ruth are well-suited to their roles. They portray very real people with all their honesty and foibles.
Wrapped within the play are motivations to contemplate the writings of one of the greats.