What if you believed one thing your whole life—and found out you were wrong?

That's the dilemma Red Broida, principal character in "The Shroud," faces in a play by Michael Kassin.

Broida (inspired by a real person) is an avowed atheist—and a scientist at Los Alamos, who worked on the atomic bomb. He has no regrets about what he's done—though the Bomb killed 200,000 innocent people. It also ended World War II.

And keeps us out of World War III.

Red reasons: if the Japanese had built the bomb first (and they were close), they could just as easily have bombed LA and San Francisco. And we might have surrendered.

Red is damn glad it was them. Red's motto: "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. Minus the Lord." In Red's world there is no God and no place for one. Men do what they have to, and the world falls in line-or else. He's replaced faith with fear (of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction). No regrets.

Then a Los Alamos colleague invites Red to become part of a scientific team that will investigate The Shroud of Turin-the alleged burial cloth of Christ. (The Shroud has a faint "image" on it. The faithful believe that image is Christ, who left it when he ascended to Heaven after the Crucifixion. In a photographic negative, the image shows positive-andbears a striking resemblance to the man the faithful believe is Christ). The scientific team will have five days to conduct non-destructive tests on the Shroud to see if they can determine what the image is and how it got there.

Barely masking his contempt, Red joins the team. For Red, the mission is to prove, once and for all, that the Shroud—and everything it stands for is fake, not "miracle." And he'll prove it scientifically.

Yet as the examination of The Shroud goes on and The Shroud passes test after test, Red finds himself on another investigation. In his quest to save the world, Red couldn't save himself. His singlemindedness about The Bomb alienated his wife, who walked out on him before she died, and his son, who disavows him as an unloving alcoholic. Red pretends he has no regrets.

But as the Shroud passes every authenticity test to determine how the image could have been man-made (painting, scorch, photograph), Red begins to test himself. Is he wrong? What if the bomb he helped create-which has morphed into bombs that can destroy the world—ended one war but left the door open for a bomb that can end it all, for all of us? And 200,000 people he killed died for nothing?

Unnerved as his world starts coming apart, Red embarks on one last test of his own faith—to prove the Shroud is a fake—and is shocked by the result.

Almost 45 years later, as current events put us nearer to Red's dilemma, we stand where Red did: can we replace fear with faith? Pass our own test-before it's too late?

It's my hope The Shroud is the beginning of our own search for an answer. 

A View from House Seats

Shirley Lorraine

The Shroud Raises Questions at Elite

Some questions are meant to be posed repeatedly throughout time, the answers to which may never come. This is the basis for The Shroud, now playing on the main stage at the Elite Theater in Oxnard.

Written by Michael Kassin and directed by Brian Robert Harris, the play presents a stirring experience as the capable cast wrestles with theories, religion, possible explanations and flat-out mysteries. For more than 700 years, historians and scientists have battled for superiority over the linen cloth espoused to have covered Jesus after his crucifixion. Is it fact or fiction? Or perhaps a little of both? The biggest question remains unanswered.

In this play, Dr. Laura Gibson (Theresa Secor) is presenting a symposium on the "facts" of the shroud. Attending the presentation are two colleagues from Los Alamos National Laboratory of New Mexico. One of them, Red Broida (Brad Strickland), makes his intense skepticism known, causing quick a ruckus. As a steadfast atheist who had worked on the development of the atomic bomb, Red needs more proof than faith can provide. After some confrontation, he is invited to become part of a scientific team to further investigate the shroud by applying modern testing techniques.

During this team's exploration, Red's mental strength is repeatedly challenged by his memories of personal failure, his colleague, John (Lawrence Gund), a faith healer with demons of her own (Cas Weisberg) and another gentleman from Los Alamos (Ronald Rezac). Erin De Horta appears briefly as Meg, Red's former wife.

In a revealing talk-back with the author after the performance I attended, Mr. Kassin related that his goal in writing this piece was to capture the release and growth one might experience of inner transformation. One way was allowing the audience to follow Red in his spiritual journey when he comes to grips with the absolute faith some hold than can be healing even without proof, to his realization that the invention of the atomic bomb may have had a deleterious effect world-wide and that he was a major factor in that outcome. Other characters experience transformations they need to move forward. Each one carries a revelation.

The play causes one to reflect on many different levels. Even though the shroud itself is a focal point, the play is about much more than that. It is about inner struggles, faith versus fear, and coming to know yourself and what you believe in. It is about dealing with choices made and the resulting consequences.

The cast manages the weighty material well. Cas Weisberg delivers a strong and compelling performance. She brings her own identity as an Indigenous Two-Spirit actor into the already complex character of Laura with a knowing eye. The blend works especially well in the context of this multi-layered piece.

Theresa Secor, a familiar persona in Ventura County theaters also portrays her character with ease and a bit of humor.

The Shroud runs through April 20. or 805-483-5118 


Click the image below to access our online ticketing system.