Pope John Paul II: spiritual leader, peacemaker, playwright?


By Jerry Tallmer

There was once a poet, striving actor, aspiring playwright named Karol Jozef Wojtyla, and one of his plays that has survived — he wrote only a half-dozen all told — is “The Jeweler’s Shop,” which dates not from his early years with the underground Rhapsodic Theater in Nazi-occupied Poland, but circa 1960, when Karol Wojtyla was the newly appointed Bishop of Krakow. Eighteen years later he would become Pope John Paul II.

“The Jeweler’s Shop” is a play about — well, about love. In the voice of the poet (spoken by Adam, the old jeweler and Wilderean stage manager), love between man and woman “is like the mustard seed, which when planted in the soil is the smallest of all earth’s seeds, yet when it is sown, springs up to become the largest of shrubs, with branches big enough for the birds of the sky to build nests in its shade.”

That goes, the drama makes clear, also of love for the One who is the son of God.

Its three short acts cover (1) a courtship and marriage in the making, (2) a marriage and love that’s gone wrong, (3) renewal of love in the next generation. The opening passage — a young man and woman sneaking looks at one another’s faces as reflected in the jewelry shop window — is altogether charming. From there on out, the language (in English translation) gets rather more abstract and flowery than this reader might wish. But it hews to its point: love conquers all.

Widely seen around the United States these past 10 years — there was also a 1987 movie starring Burt Lancaster — “The Jeweler’s Shop” has now landed for one rare Greenwich Village performance — words and music — 2 p.m. Sunday, September 16, at the University Parish of St. Joseph’s, 371 Sixth Avenue. Tickets are $10.

Producer George Gordon and his cast of seven stand ready to bring the show to any other parish in this town, splitting the proceeds. You can reach him at (845) 661-6953 or www.gbiz2@aol.com.

THE JEWELER’S SHOP. By Karol Jozef Wojtyla (John Paul II). English version by Boleslaw Taborski, adapted by Ted Davis. Songs by Paul Cassenova, arranged by Mary Ann Busch. Sunday, September 16, 2 p.m., at the University Parish of St. Joseph’s, 371 Sixth Avenue, (212) 741-1274. Admission $10.