Marilyn photo

Marilyn Felt's educational Legacy

Acts of Faith

Cover of Samuel French publication

Acts of Faith, Marilyn's first play began as a project in a play-writing course at the Harvard Extension School. It was an immediate success.

It presents the interplay between a female New York psychologist and the young terrorist guarding her in the course of an airplane hijacking. Although it has been taken as (and criticized by members of each of the opposing parties - Jews and Muslims for supporting the other side in) a political statement, it is really the age old theme of the sudden juxtaposition of and the resulting conflict between very different world views and sets of values. It is a humane rather than a political play

Marilyn explores her motivation and intents in writing Acts of Faith in her Author's Notes (PDF, 60KB) in the playbill for the play's off-Broadway premiere.

Acts of Faith was published by Samuel French in 1986.

Announcement of 92 Street 'Y's production

Acts of Faith opened in December 1987 at the Mosaic Theatre, 92nd Street Y, an off-Broadway theatre. There was a nice review of that production in the New York Post:

OFF-B'WAY review

Felt's 'Faith' a fine first


The Mosaic Theater continues to make a good impression during its premiere season as the resident company at the 92d St. Y. In Marilyn Felt's "Acts of Faith," Michael Posnick's company shows its skills at nurturing new playwrights, while maintaining its fidelity to themes of Jewish faith and heritage.

Without that special commitment, Felt's first work - a two character suspenser about an American Jewish woman held captive on a plane by an Arab terrorist - could easily be passed off as a conventional melodrama in the tradition of "The Desperate Hours."

In William Foeller's resolute production, however, the melodramatic elements are carefully balanced with its deeper issues of faith and humanism.

Although we are not shown what's going on in the main cabin of the aircraft, both the offstage sounds and the reactions of the terrorist guarding the sole Jewish passenger provide plenty of escalating drama.

Somewhat trickier to pull off is the playwright's comforting thesis that even a fanatical Shiite Moslem can become putty in the hands of a nice Jewish lady who speaks her mind honestly and cautions her captor about his smoking habit.

Although Mark Zeisler plays the hijacker with level-headed intelligence and real charm, it does seem as if such fundamentally nice-guy terrorists exist only in popular literature. In real life, don't Moslem fanatics kick nice American Jews overboard?

Sofia Landon's perfectly controlled performance doesn't let us forget for a minute the absolute terror of the hostage, even as she makes us believe that the woman's commitment to humanist ideals can ultimately override terror. Both the actress and the playwright give the character the full courage of her naivete. Who, then, could remain skeptical in the presence of such utterly convincing niceness?

"Acts of Faith" runs through Jan. 14 at the 92d St. Y, 1395 Lexington Ave.
New York Post, Wednesday, December 23, 1987
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Acts of Faith was translated into German as Nichts Zu Verlieren ["Nothing to Lose"] and after an early run in Germany was recently revived. Specifics of these and other productions are provided in a brief Production History (PDF, 60KB).