Death always has room for one more. Starting Thursday, TheatreWorks sets the sentiment to the stage with its adaptation of the 500-year-old English morality play Everyman.
This production, however, has a modern twist: It's hosted on a moving bus. Audience members literally come along as the bus leaves from downtown Colorado Springs, picks up new cast members and lets others off, and eventually ends at a surprise destination.
"This really is the last ride of your and of every man's life," says artistic director Murray Ross, who adapted the anonymously written original piece for today's culture. Ross incorporated bus stops — the locations of which are secret — that relate to the characters' goals and purposes, and even changed the traditional gender of God from male to female.
Our outlook on death has changed markedly since the medieval era. Ross feels we have warehoused death and made it peripheral to our day-to-day lives; Everyman reminds us that it is unavoidable.
The play also reminds us that as in medieval times, God has reason to feel let down by, and angry with, his children.
"God talks about how she feels that mankind has let her down, that we are not kind to each other," says Judeth Shay Burns, the actress and Colorado College voice coach who plays the role of Angel. "We have lost our way. She feels this need to get our attention and sends Death down to us. She is a disappointed parent."
It's Death's job to wake humanity and prod them into doing better as a species, a collective represented by the lone Everyman. Accompanying him are characters like Knowledge, Wisdom and Beauty. "They are representatives of ideas," Burns says. "For example, materialism is represented by a character named Goods."
In some ways, the play indicates, those virtues and vices can be as meaningful as death itself.
"This is a play about going to death," Ross says, "but it is really a play about your life and what matters."