by Mike Poblete · August 17, 2014
In Lee Weaver’s one man show The Secret - The Spanish Inquisition In Old St. Augustine, Jose Miguel Martinez, a Spanish Investigative Attorney during the declining years of the Spanish Inquisition tasked with finding out heathens, makes a pioneering voyage to Florida with his sister to embark on an adventure. On the boat Jose’s life is saved by Tavo, a colorful cartographer, who marries his sister and the two form a friendship that spans twenty years. The two families live happily under the same roof, until Jose is stabbed by English pirates and Tavo is forced to reveal a dangerous secret when invoking a Jewish prayer to save his friend’s life. Jose’s struggle as one of history’s most anti-Semitic professionals to see reason in a new world ends up shaping the culture of one of the oldest European settlements in North America.
Weaver is a natural storyteller; with a strong stage presence he enthusiastically brings to life a historical theory that the Spanish 1565 foundation of St. Augustine, Florida secretly brought the continent’s first Jewish immigrants a century before the Dutch. Unfortunately, like a lot of historical dramatization, the author’s reverence for the material results in a variety of noble characters devoid of complexity, and what is left is a script largely without conflict. The many routine details, such as sixteenth century clothing and fishing procedures, were vivid and moved fluidly. But Weaver missed an opportunity for greater historical context; barely touching on the natives who burned St. Augustine to the ground, the many children Jose and Tavo lost, and what exactly comprised Jose’s occupation (it wasn’t until three quarters through the play, well past Tavo’s revelation, that I understood the full implications of Jose’s belief structure).
Ultimately Weaver, a former clergyman, tells a story of religious struggle in the style of a an eager history teacher: charming in his passion, but at an hour and forty-five minutes, long winded, and a bit dry in subject matter for a FringeNYC audience.