Charles Durning dramatizes the life of This beloved Pope.
The New York Times Review:
‘I WOULD BE CALLED JOHN’ ON PBS
By JOHN CORRY
Published: September 17, 1987
”I WOULD BE CALLED JOHN” is very much Charles Durning’s performance; the longtime character actor gives us Pope John XXIII as warm and spiritual and something of a slyboots, too. He may be fighting sin, although the great enemy is the Curia. Mr. Durning’s Pope shows holy determination.
The play, by Eugene Kennedy, begins on the eve of the Cardinals’ conclave to elect a successor to Pius XII. Mr. Durning is musing in Vatican chambers. He may be only the son of a tenant farmer, but he’s seen a lot of life.
Most members of the Curia, though, ”know nothing of the world.” And, alas, they think that he, born Angelo Roncalli, is ”not a first-class person.” Mr. Durning, swathed in clerical garb, rotund and baldish, looks a little like an elderly infant. In fact, this is part of his appeal. The actor is downright endearing.
Mr. Kennedy’s script, helped by Charles Jarrot’s direction, moves Mr. Durning through time; present goes into past, more neatly than is usual in one-character productions. Mr. Durning talks about narrow-minded men in the Curia. Without pause, it is 1917, and he is ministering to dying soldiers. The Vatican chamber gives way to a modest, smokey battlefield. The play may be a small production, but it is imaginatively done.