Last Confession

By John Farrell

Catholic or non-Catholic there is a fascination with the ancient rituals and modern politics of churches.

When Dan Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code he tapped into that fascination and made millions. But that was, for all the web excitement that book generated, a book of fiction.

The Last confession, which recently opened at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, is based on truth — at least in its outline. There is a chance to see more red silk on stage than you’ll get this side of a papal conclave. Also, there is a chance to see it

s star, David Suchet, playing a role that isn’t Hercule Poirot. (Suchet did every single Poirot story by Agatha Christie for PBS years back.) Don’t worry, as Cardinal Giovanni Bellini,  he does get a big second-act interrogation scene worthy of Poirot. Bellini engineered the election of Pope John Paul I, who some think was murdered after only 33 days as Pope.The play tells the story of that brief period in church history as Bellini confesses to what might be his part in papal murder. John Paul I proved to be a liberal and the Curia, the conservative faction of the church, had reasons to regret his election. Cardinal Albino Luciani (Richard O’Callaghan) becomes pope and is a sweet-spirited man who only briefly comes to the knowledge of how the church works before he dies.

Cardinal Jean Villot (Nigel Bennett) is the chief villain, and he plays that role with just a little concealed malice. Bishop Paul Marcinkus (Stuart Milligan) is as much a caricature of a Chicago hood (he was from Chicago, but . . .) as an archbishop, and you have to wonder how he got so high in the church.

All this is played on a stage that is filled with moving arches and darkness: what people think the Catholic church looks like, apparently. And, all those men, dressed in red and black, make it more like a parody than a real drama about what happened and to whom: the subject is simply too complex for that.

That won’t affect the play’s world tour (after a hit production in England.) Go if you want to see Suchet doing his Poirot in crimson silk, but don’t expect any real insight into the Vatican

Tickets are $20 to $105. Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 1 and 6:30 p.m. through July 6. There aren’t any performances on June 15 and 29, and July 4. . There will be one additional performance June 26.

Details: (213) 972-4400; www.CenterTheatreGroup.org
Venue: Ahmanson Theatre
Location: 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles

 

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