World premiere of “An Undivided Heart” about church abuse and tainted water

People’s World

March 20, 2018

By Eric A. Gordon

Twenty-five years or so ago two major moral crises unfolded at about the same time in Massachusetts. One had to do with the widespread cover-up of child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, the other with toxic drinking water caused by unregulated corporations (W.R. Grace Co., Beatrice Foods, and the Unifirst Co. were implicated). The first issue was handily dealt with in the 2015 film Spotlight, which won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The water crime was the subject of the book and 1998 film starring John Travolta, A Civil Action.

In a world premiere collaboration production of Yusuf Toropov’s An Undivided Heart by the Echo Theater Company & Circle X Theatre Co., the author conflates these two crises and asks how far will powerful men and institutions go to keep their secrets—and who pays the price when they do?

Yusuf Toropov surely knows Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 play An Enemy of the People, which deals with moral issues over contamination of the town’s public baths. One more thing that Ibsen’s and Toropov’s plays have in common is the issue of whistle-blowing in the media—a newspaper in Norway, a book in Boston.

The play also shares some common ground with the 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning Doubt, A Parable by John Patrick Shanley, which similarly, in a Catholic school setting, took on the question of how much and what kind of proof do we require to act on our suspicions.

What distinguishes Toropov’s play is the focus on the different hierarchical levels, generations and standards of ethical commitment within the Church, as well as on the townspeople whose entire lives have been spent in the arms of the Roman Catholic religion—and within homes supplied by toxic, unholy water. Interestingly, Toropov, an American writer, is himself a convert to Islam who lives in Ireland, where a bright light on the misdeeds of the Catholic Church also has been shining for the past several years.

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