What's it about?
The Penitent is about a psychiatrist who is asked to testify on behalf of one of his patients who commits murder. His choice not to leaves everything questioned and strained - his faith, marriage and morals.
What I experienced?
First of all, I had not a single clue what the word 'penitent' meant. Google told me that it means "a person who repents their sins or wrongdoings and (in the Christian Church) seeks forgiveness from God." Okay. Got it. Carry on.
How do we remain true to ourselves when life is suddenly upside down?
How do we make it through hard times without support from those we love most? When those very people don't understand why we do what we do?
Do our secrets do the most damage? Our guilt?
How do we clear our name when it has already been publicly destroyed?
I'VE GOT SO MANY QUESTIONS! MY HEAD IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE!
This show left me with much more questions than answers. It was like I was watching Law & Order on 2x speed (the dialogue was all overlapping and choppy) and I was missing out on some crucial information to help me determine if I should be team protagonist or not. Charles, the main character, is the psychiatrist to the patient going on trial. He goes through some heavy duty stuff in this piece. And the entire time I was watching his story unravel, I kept thinking to myself "is there a reason I should not be rooting for you?"
As someone who recently graduated college with a degree in Psychology, it was so eye opening to get a perspective on what it must be like to help someone and attempt to put your own morals, prejudices and personal values to the side in order to remain objective. One of the very first things we learn in Psychology 101 is the importance of confidentiality and putting our own personal judgements to the side when helping a patient. To watch this man have to deal with the issue of patient confidentiality and what that really means in the eye of the law, to have to keep the information you know a secret from everyone - including your partner - and to want to keep the morals and standards of your oath even when they are being tested, was really painful for me because I know that in the same situation, I would be so anxious and lost. Watching all of this pan out on stage left me feeling certain that I would not be able to endure what Charles had to endure. To have to fight for your morals with everything you have when it should really be the basis of all humanity and all decision making. It was just so overwhelming for me and I'm not even Charles! Bless you brother!
My entire experience of this show revolved around the never ending stream of thoughts and questions regarding a profession I once thought would be my own. Charles' struggle is one that I cannot imagine ever having to go through. But the part that made me feel the most was the ending. The reason behind Charles' unease comes down to his feelings of guilt and my jaw dropped when his reason for feeling guilty is revealed. The entire play started to make more sense. His actions, uncertainty, desires to remain moral and stand by his oath as a professional and his increased faith all made total sense.
The one scene that made me really upset was when Charles is being questioned by the patient's attorney. Since Charles has made his faith in God known to the public, the attorney decides to badger him about specific parts of the bible. Being as overwhelmed as he probably was - and also not as well informed about every single part asked about - the attorney uses his vulnerability to ask about his thoughts on homosexuality as represented in certain parts of the bible. He tries to use Charles' faith as a way to prove that he would in fact have prejudices against his gay patient which Charles himself has stated many times is not true. How crazy is it that lawyers can hammer you about your faith and your belief in the bible!?! CHURCH AND STATE MAN! I thought that they are supposed to be separate?! That's so insane! The lawyer that badgered Charles about his faith went so in depth that of course he would be overwhelmed. I just don't think it is fair that they can do that!!
I spent most of the show trying to figure out who I'd be if I was in Charles' shoes. If I had to make a decision under incredible stress and moral pressure. And even now, a week later, I still don't know. I'm still flooded with all of these unanswered questions and I'm still feeling a little bit of unease about the entire thing. We just never know who we'll be or what we'll do when it's all hypothetical. But what I can take away from watching this show is that we as people are in no position to place judgments on the decisions of others. Only God has that power. Charles' decision to look to his faith instead of just following the advice given to him by other people was so admirable and truly the strength of his character.
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What did you experience?
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