REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Judith: A Parting from the Body


By Howard Barkertrap door theatre

Directed by Zeljko Djukic

At Trap Door Theatre, Chicago

Old Testament story of Judith get a revisionist take by Howard Barker

British playwright Howard Barker uses his unusual perspective of his Theatre of Catastrophe, theatre that stands apart from both dramatic theatre and the epic theatre, the theatre in which a drama refuses the message and the audience is given the role of interpreter of obscurities and “goes home disturbed or amazed.”

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Judith (Nicole Wiesner) is taken from the apocryphal bible  Book of Judith, the beautiful widowed heroine offers her body as sacrifice to the enemy’s general Holofernes (Kevin Cox) in order to save her country only to end up as woman in love “who kills the thing she loves.”

 Woman’s body as commodity; sacrifice as a path to ecstasy; death and love as the battleground of a general and a beautiful widow offering self-annihilation for the price of her country’s sovereignty; seduction in the time of destruction–all of this and more is on display in Howard Barker’s Judith, his re-telling for “the theatre of catastrophe” of the apocryphal Book of Judith.

All the above are thoughts from the press notes and from Milan Prisbisic, the show’s dramaturgist. Thank God for those or most of us would still be scratching our heads trying to comprehend what we just witness on stage at Trap Door theatre. It  is true that Barker uses language as the vehicle toward articulation to make his case for the necessity for Judith to use personal sacrifice to save her people from doom.

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We see the clash of ideas that finds Holofernes speaking of death, cruelty and his inability to love or be loved to Judith. They both use  a combination of poetic language and obscenities and sexual seduction to gain the upper hand in their game of power. Can the power of sexual seduction fell a powerful general? And can the wordy debate destroy an enemy and save a people?

With the help of her servant (Stacie Beth Green), Judith uses all her assets in the game of moral superiority despite her personal qualms for the common good. The result is a theatrical journey where seduction is expressed with verbal dexterity at the expense of vivid sensuality.  Kevin Cox is mesmerizing as the subtle general while Nicole Wiesner presents Judith as the tormented killer. Stacie Beth Green is Judith’s voice of action. The ritual dance of seduction and destruction is nicely stage and most effective.

For a different theatrical experience, Trap Door Theatre pushes the envelop and their production of Judith will provide you with a look into the world of Theatre of Catastrophe. You may leave Trap Door disturbed but you ‘ll be enriched by the experience. Serious theatre patrons need to see Trap Door productions. Judith is a rare theatrical experience waiting to rattle you.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: January 30, 2014

For more info checkout the Judith page at

At Trap Door Theatre,  1655 W. Cortland, Chicago, IL,, tickets $20 – $25, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM, Sundays at 7PM (Starting Feb 9), running time is 75 minutes without intermission, through March 1, 2014

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