The Jeweler’s Shop was written by a young Karol Wojtyla before he ultimately became Pope and then St. John Paul II. As a youth, he was very involved in the underground movement resisting the Nazi occupation of Poland. During this time, he became part of an underground theater group. He continued his love of theater throughout his life. The Jeweler’s Shop was written in 1960 when he was a young auxiliary bishop.
We attended Friday night’s opening of the The Jeweler’s Shop directed by Jeremy Stanbary at Open Window Theatre. You may recall Gianna wrote about Open Window Theatre and its philosophies last spring. Stanbary also directed A Pilgrim’s Progress in June of this year.
My usual advice of studying for dates almost back-fired on me this time. As a Catholic and a reader, I’ve read some of Pope John Paul II’s writing. I also watched a production of the play on YouTube — or tried to. (Actually I fell asleep after the first act.) I was apprehensive taking on this review since I usually review children’s plays with a preference toward musicals. This play is aptly subtitled, “A Meditation on the Sacrament of Matrimony, Passing on Occasion into a Drama“. It’s a heavy subject matter written by someone who has written dissertations on the subject.
All of this scared me. However, I had a wonderful date night. Stanbary and cast took a deep theological subject and brought it down to its human component. They made me laugh and brought me to tears at times. My husband and I spent the drive home discussing, love and marriage and the stages we journey through as a couple.
The Jewelers Shop is a contemplation of marriage through all its stages and, to a lesser extent, how our attitudes toward our own marriages reverberate in our children. The play explores three marriages that really represent three stages of any marriage. Though it ends in a feeling of hope for the struggling marriage, the audience is left with a feeling of an uphill climb for the young couple and questions around the happy marriage.
Would I take children to this play? Open Window states that their plays are appropriate for anyone age 4 and up. While there is nothing objectionable in the production, it deals with matters of little interest to children. I think in this case whether you take them depends on your children. How old are they? Are they used to sitting still? Do you enjoy discussing deep matters together? I’ve made a flowchart to help you navigate.
The opening act begins with Teresa and Andrew on the day of their engagement as they contemplate their future in the window of a Jeweler’s Shop. They are happy, but their are hints that they both struggled with the decision to marry the other and that, while they had openly discussed these struggles, they were also aware that there would be struggles to come. This is best seen as they recall fragments of letters exchanged in which they discuss each others lack of courage and trust.
After the engagement of Teresa and Andrew, Anna moves into the window. She is desperately unhappy in her marriage to Stefan. What may have started out as a perceived rift by Anna has been increasing as she becomes more depressed and he responds with more distance — creating a downward cycle in their marriage. Anna encounters a mysterious stranger who attempts to direct her back toward her marriage.
In the final act, the first two couple’s grown children, Christopher and Monica, marry. The audience learns the fates of both marriages and the lasting impact their relationships had on their children. Monica, who has seen her parents struggle with unhappiness is skeptical of marriage; while Christopher, whose father died in the war, may have a fairytale view of their future. We are left with a feeling that you often have at a wedding — “Can this marriage last?”. However, to balance that, we see Anna and Stefan begin the first steps toward reconciliation.