Juliet, a Hungarian woman deported to a Romanian gulag with her seven children, experiences a crisis of faith and miraculous rebirth as she witnesses the harsh but beautiful realities of God’s love.
Foreword (by Christopher Markle)
Afterword (by Ruxandra Ceseranu)
A Short History of the Romanian Gulag
The Story of a Deported Woman and Her Seven Children
List of Performances
2003 (English translation 2007)
As a young man, playwright Andras Visky struggled to reconcile his faith in God with his experiences of living in a gulag at a very young age. His mother and pastor father had been separated from each other, and Visky, his mother, and his siblings were placed in the squalid conditions of a prison camp. Juliet is an outpouring of his reflections on the trials and faith of his mother, as she survived and raised children in such a dehumanizing environment.
The protagonist of the play Juliet is a Hungarian woman who marries a pastor. When he feels called to move to Romania, she hesitantly goes along with him. As the soviet regime continues to grow in power, Juliet’s husband is arrested by the police and taken away from her. Soon after, Juliet and her seven children are moved into an internment camp.
Juliet’s story is not presented to us in chronological order. Rather, it is a series of reflections on various points in the character’s life, interweaving with highly symbolic ‘visions’ of the cruelty of the world, and of God’s extreme love and grace.
The only character present onstage during a performance of Juliet is the woman herself. However, Visky chose to use the subtitle, “a dialogue”, because the entire script is her conversations with her imprisoned husband and with God.
This is a spiritually intense story. Juliet does get angry at God. She blames Him for her trials. In the end, however, she comes to realize her total dependence on God’s love and mercy.
The setting of the story is a Romanian gulag. So, while no gratuitous violence is depicted, the conditions of the camp and the attitude behind its construction are very disturbing.
At one point, a man attempts to seduce Juliet under the guise of helping her and her family. She resists him, however.
Other negative themes
Throughout the story, Juliet feels deep bitterness towards her family due to her suffering. She also desires death, and ruminates on it regularly.
Almost everything that I mentioned above as negative aspects are used positively by the author to show the harsh realities of human existence, as well as the miraculous presence of God within them.
I never thought I would be able to relate to the character of a mother trapped with her children in an internment camp. However, the author’s depictions of her faith, doubt, and inner conflict transcend any particular time and situation, and speak to the heart of the human condition. Visky is not painting the portrait of a hero or a martyr, but of a human.
Much of the scrip of Juliet reads like poetry. It flows from the mind of the character sometimes like a prayer and sometimes like a dream. The style is as broken-yet-beautiful as the protagonist herself. If you go into a showing of the play or read a copy of the script expecting a concrete storyline and exacting prose, you will be disappointed. There is a lot of beauty to be found, however, in the lyrical, almost surrealistic wording.
It would be extremely hard to summarize the entirety of the themes of Juliet in such a small space. It is about life, death, rebirth, love, and suffering. It is about the presence of God in the depths of human despair and agony. It displays the confusing dichotomies of life in an artistically pleasing and spiritually challenging way.
Andras Visky’s Juliet is a poetic, heartbreaking reflection on human nature, as well as the presence and love of God in pain and suffering. I recommend it be read or viewed not only as a spiritual encouragement, but also as a work of art.
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+ Deeply theological and deeply poetic
+ Realistic character
+ Beautiful style