Directed by Walt Jones
September 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 8 p.m., and September 27, 2 p.m.
At any one moment, Hollywood writers are trying to write the next perfect plot; The Grifters, The Sting, and Oceans 11 are basically The Alchemist by Ben Johnson, as it dramatizes the “long con.” The great English poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), surmised that The Alchemist – first performed in 1610 – had one of three perfect plots, the other two being Oedipus Rex by Sophovles (430 B.C.), and Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1749). Just three in 2,000 years! It’s been said that if it wasn’t for Shakespeare, Jonson would be Britain’s national playwright and his greatest misfortune was having Shakespeare as a contemporary. This would have been news to Jonson as he went to his grave the most celebrated poet of his age.
The clever comedy and deception of The Alchemist’s perfect plot takes place within six hours in London’s Blackfriars district. In 1610, London was the capitol of lethal con-artists and money-minded Puritans, where the threat of plague was balanced by the prospect of limitless wealth. The Alchemist is flawless, still current satire about greed, image, perceptions and the endless gullibility of people of all social classes.
If Jonson had been a Hollywood screenwriter, one could imagine a chart with each storyline represented by a different color string making plot intersections, and reminiscent of a map of the London Underground – only easier to lost one’s way.
Click to read the Alchemist Program.