"Great Performances" The Gospel at Colonus (TV Episode 1985) Poster

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Insightful Take on the Oedipus Story
Lursa13 May 2006
I first saw this on PBS several years ago and the performances were so striking that it has stayed with me. The idea of putting the story in a more modern setting is not new but this version is truly insightful. This is also one of the early Morgan Freeman pieces and he is wonderful in it. The whole cast is stellar. The music...oh my GOD!...the MUSIC soars!! I really wish the production company, or WNET, or whoever holds the rights to this would put it out in video or DVD format. I would love to show it to students at my school who are struggling with understanding the whole Oedipus and Antigone storyline. If you can get your hands on a copy count yourself lucky. It is truly a great performance!
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Now available commercially!
jcpo12 March 2009
After 23 years this wonderful show is available for purchase. Check eBay and Amazon for vendors. Also, you can get it from Netflix! The video and sound quality are excellent. The performances continue to pack a wallop. Lee Breuer and Bob Telson's audacious theater piece has been staged all over North America to great acclaim, by choral and theatrical groups large and small. The tragic end of Oedipus' life brings the viewer feelings of horror and pity that the ancient Greeks called catharsis. The theme resonates with the African American Pentecostal experience in many ways, and there has been an ongoing conversation about how true a match the two traditions make. Lift him up!
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Gospel at Colonus
wayne-8327 December 2009
I've seen the Gospel at Colonus twice in theatres (first at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in the late 1980s with Pops Staples and some of his family, among others) and the 2nd time a few years ago at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. I've got to say that seeing it live with a great cast and choir is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. The Gospel of Colonus CD produced by Donald Fagen is also truly great. This DVD provides a good alternative as well.

I don't think that the versions I saw had the Morgan Freeman type narrator, or at least I don't remember that. I think the theatrical versions I saw unfolded the story more through the characters and the music with less narration. Having said that, it was fun to see Morgan Freeman, especially after having seen Invictus a few days ago. The music is phenomenal, of course, with the Five Blind Boys, the Soul Stirrers, The Steele's, and Robert Earl Jones (the father of James Earl Jones, who was Darth Vader among many other roles).

At some point during the 1990s, after seeing the Gospel of Colonus for the first time, I read the three Theban plays of Sophocles, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone, in the Robert Fagles translation. Gospel of Colonus is based primarily on Oedipus at Colonus with maybe a little bit of the others mixed in. This part of the story happens long after Oedipus married his mother (although he didn't know she was his mother) and killed his father (although he didn't know he was his father), the parents having abandoned him at birth because of the prophecy of an oracle. Oedipus, of course, blinded himself when he found out the truth and took himself off to exile. One thing I would emphasize is that Oedipus was a (fictional) King but wasn't a "greek god."

Needless to say, Oedipus' story is an incredibly dramatic one--not a "biblical" story exactly but an incredibly profound and dramatic one. Borrowing the "gospel" style of music to re-tell this story was an incredibly brilliant choice--the resulting story has a lot of contemporary relevance, I'd say. I would think that anyone could appreciate the "energy" of the music in the Gospel of Colonus without knowing much if anything about Oedipus and all that.
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How could this possibly fit into the Christian Pentscostal culture?
teenageJesusfreak1158 December 2006
The Greek and Christian culture simply do not fit together. There is only one Christian God, there are many in the Greek culture. The Christ God is loving, the Greek gods/goddesses are full of passion, jealousy, hate, and anger. There is no parallel... Although it seemed that the director tried to put a jigsaw together with two different puzzles... it just didn't work. It was confusing. It was boring. It was long. It was boring. It was monotony. It was boring. The pieces simply didn't fit together. Oh, and did I mention that it was boring? It was mixing up Christ with the Greek gods. This just doesn't work and ends up contradicting itself. I had to watch this for school and everyone at my school was bored and confused... I don't think it's worth 90 minutes of your life. Christ is real, not a myth.
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