THE DEATH OF SOCRATES adapted from Plato's Apology by Nick Mancuso, directed by Hrant Alianak, with Mancuso. Presented by Alianak Theatre and Mainstage Productions at Artword (75 Portland). Runs to December 1, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $21-$28, Sunday pwyc-$15, stu/srs discount. 416-504-7529. Rating: NN
The self-defence offered by a stonemason on trial for his life in ancient Greece might not mean much today, but when the speaker is Socrates and the story is related by Plato, the argument is a powerful one. Whether it translates into remarkable theatre is another matter.Performer Nick Mancuso has adapted Plato's Apology, the statement offered by his teacher, Socrates, against charges of atheism and corrupting the youth of Athens. Mancuso slips onto Droege Designs' elegant set from the audience, as if he's one of us, and indeed turns viewers into both his accusers and the jury he must convince of his innocence.
He gives a colloquial feel to the language as he becomes a kind of streetcorner orator in jeans and sneakers, adding a touch of engaging dignity to the argument. The speech, of course, uses the Socratic method of question-and-answer and draws in others to create something of a dialogue.
But not all the arguments are laid out clearly in this staging, and the logic seems to leap over points rather than move with relentless purpose to Socrates' main ideas -- that he is wise because he knows he is not wise, will never stop searching for truth and that questions of right and wrong are more important than those of life and death.
Mancuso offers some well-focused moments under Hrant Alianak's direction, but to succeed this is a piece that must work as a whole, not sporadically and in parts.