REVIEW: Conviction (Maya Productions at Theater Wit)


Strong solo performance resuscitates lagging script


Ami Dayan playing Andres Gonzales in 'Conviction' by Oren Neeman.

Maya Productions presents
Written by Oren Neeman
Performed by
Ami Dayan
Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
through Feb 20  |  tickets: $18-$28  |  more info

Reviewed by Allegra Gallian

Conviction, adapted from the novel “Confession” by Yonatan Ben Nachum, is based on true stories from the time of the Spanish Inquisition. In a time when Catholicism was the sole accepted religion – if you chose to ignore the rule it was punishable by death – the story of a Catholic priest renouncing his vows to marry a Jewish woman is a story worth telling.

Maya Productions, based in Colorado, has brought their production of Conviction to Theater Wit. Featuring Ami Dayan, Conviction is a one-man show retelling this compelling story.

The set consists of a black background on which actual Spanish Inquisition trial documents are projected. Very little set pieces fill the stage, save for a single desk and chair, a kneeler and a stack of black boxes. The rest of the stage is left bare, allowing the story to fill up the space, leaving ample room for Dayan to move around.

Conviction tells the story of Andrés Gonzáles (Ami Dayan), and is split between a 1960’s interrogation of a man who stole documents while researching a genealogy project, and Gonzáles confessing the sins of his story to his fellow priest and long-time friend in the fifteenth century. As the show begins, it’s clear that Dayan, though on point and very well prepared, is not immediately accessible. It feels like there’s a wall up between Dayan and the audience which has to be broken down. Over the course of the show, it eventually is, but it’s taken down brick by brick at times in the beginning. Once Dayan switches from interrogator to Gonzáles in the confessional, he really hits his stride and his characterization opens up to the audience.

Dayan is completely devoted to his character and his performance. He morphs into his character, shedding his actor persona and embodying fully the persona of Gonzáles. As he connects more to the audience,retelling the story of Gonzáles’s secret love affair with the Jewish woman Isabel and how he eventually renounces his role as a priest to marry her, he’s charming and intriguing. Dayan performs not only with his voice but with his whole body and his very animated facial expressions that help portray both the emotions and the actions of the story.

Despite Dayan’s powerful performance, however, the show tends to drag at points. Particularly in the beginning, the action is slow moving and dense. As Conviction progresses the action does begin to pick up the pace as Dayan settles into the character of Gonzáles, and becomes more captivating, moving the action along.

Rating: ★★½

Conviction plays at Theatre Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, through February 20. Tickets cost $27.50 and can be purchased by calling 773-975-8150.


2 Responses

  1. I saw the show and found it spellbinding. What a tour de force in acting. A must see.

  2. This play literally took my breath away. It brings like to a dark time and gives the past life bringing about a profound experience.

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