Saturday, February 18, 2012

“Buddha – A Fantastic Journey” (play)

Reviewer Ron Irwin (Burbank Examiner); edited by Wisdom Quarterly
Wisdom Quarterly caught an earlier production in a Westwood art gallery and found the play fantastic! (Phoebe Sudrow;

For the vast majority of the Western world, knowledge of the Buddha and Buddhism is confined to the following: It involves monastics with shaved heads and saffron robes who meditate and chant and come from somewhere in Asia.

One has to have a sense of adventure to go watch Evan Brenner's one-man performance (shown left) entitled “Buddha - A Fantastic Journey.” For those possessing that sense of adventure it will be about 75 minutes of pure delight.

Buddha - A Fantastic Journey, Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. Opens Feb. 10, 2012 and runs through March 3; performances: Fri-Sat, 7:30 pm. Tickets: $30.00; Box Office: (800) 838-3006.

Writer-actor Brenner developed this stage presentation [directed by actor John C. Rielly, shown below] of the life of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. It is warm, thorough, utterly fascinating and entertaining.

Siddhartha is believed to have been born a very privileged prince on the frontiers of ancient India about 563 BCE, who became the Buddha 35 years later, and gained final nirvana around 483 BCE.

Playwright Brenner turned to the oldest Buddhist sutras to get the most accurate history available. What he found was a familiar path of a man seeking enlightenment.

One need not be a Buddhist to enjoy and appreciate the story of a spiritual quest. Based in historical fact the play takes the audience down a dramatic trail of adventure and eventual enlightenment.

It begins with the young prince becoming aware of human suffering. It then winds through a period of extreme asceticism popular among yogis in that era. Eventually it evolves into a successful Middle Way.

The protagonist experiences numerous challenges including attempts on his life and periodic temptations from Mara (a kind of devil figure) who throws up obstacles. Every step is masterfully portrayed by Evan Brenner.

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