Mar 22nd, 2013 - May 5th, 2013
Director by Deborah Gilmour Smyth
Written by Aldyth Morris
Damien de Veuster Robert Smyth
Set & Properties Designer Michael McKeon
Costume Designer Jeanne Reith
Lighting Designer Nathan Peirson
Sound Design Deborah Gilmour Smyth
Stage Manager & Introduction Cynthia Peters Gerber
"I confess I was not looking forward to a “one man” show. Nor a play about a priest who worked with lepers. My concerns were misplaced. DAMIEN was one of the best stage performances I’ve ever seen. Bravo! "
- ( James W Huston Reviews )
"A truly singular performance. Altogether phenomenal!"
- ( Coronado Eagle-Journal )
"Smyth has always been outstanding in the role, but his portrayal has deepened with time - now given even greater poignancy by age itself."
- ( Backstage )

Clad in a filthy cassock, his face bronzed by both the tropical sun and the depredations of a terrible disease, the man who would become Hawaii’s first saint speaks of suffering and redemption.

“A leper takes a long time dying, and there’s time for some joy along the way,” the priest born Joseph de Veuster says with a typical mix of candor and humanity in Aldyth Morris’ one-man play “Damien.”

At Lamb’s Players Theatre, Robert Smyth inhabits the character of Father Damien (as de Veuster became known) with an earthy authenticity that draws a playgoer into this saga of the man who ministered to the lepers of Molokai.

Smyth, the Coronado-based theater’s producing artistic director, has played the role of the 19th-century priest many times over the last 30 years, although this is his first return to it since 2000. (His wife, associate artistic director Deborah Gilmour Smyth, directs the production.)

It’s a story that’s clearly close to his heart — and to the mission of Lamb’s, which produces a wide range of theater (including big musicals and world-premiere works) but grounds its programming in explorations of the moral and the spiritual.

Smyth skillfully brings to life all of Damien’s passion and bluster (the priest himself admits his temper was a problem), born of anger and frustration at how authorities banished those suffering from leprosy to Molokai’s isolated Kalaupapa Settlement, with precious few resources to sustain them.

The Hawaiians, Damien tells us, called Kalaupapa “the place without a sunset” because of the sea cliffs that towered above it. He calls it “a dumping ground for lepers — the saddest place on Earth.” Damien spent some 16 years there, before himself dying of leprosy (now known as Hansen’s disease) in 1889.

Morris’ play (which Lamb’s associate artist Cynthia Gerber introduces with a short, engaging monologue) covers not just Damien’s life but afterlife; he describes his own death, and the wonders that greeted him upon his exhumation in the 1930s, when his body was flown back to his home country of Belgium ...the two-act, 100-minute show has a spare, involving theatricality, with graceful contributions by Gilmour Smyth (sound), Nathan Peirson (lighting), Michael McKeon (sets) and Jeanne Barnes Reith (Smyth’s costume).

“Damien” does especially well at capturing its subject’s hard-won humor. And, above all, his single-minded devotion. "
- Jim Hebert ( UT San Diego )
"Riveting! One you don't want to miss!"
- ( SD Insider )
"If you saw Father Damien de Vuester holding a cardboard, "please help" sign on a street corner, you'd probably walk swiftly past. Robert Smyth's admirable performance will invert your first impression. Damien, the resident priest at Molokai, Hawaii's leper colony, was canonized for his caring and devotion. I've seen several versions and have watched Smyth grow as a storyteller. This version, by far his best, weaves an intricate text into a moving tale."
- Jeff Smith ( SD Reader )
"Robert Smyth has played the role four times over the past three decades. The current portrayal is his deepest, richest and most satisfying."
- Pat Launer ( KSDS )