Janus Productions, at the Greenview Arts Center.

Readers may recall Martin Luther as the man who put the “protest” in Protestant: a radical who bypassed church, clergy, and all the other middlemen to establish a direct line of communication between the individual Christian and God. He also criticized the Roman church of his day for the practice of selling indulgences–purported to absolve the past, present, and future sins of anyone who could pay–then found himself at the forefront of a blood-soaked uprising that sundered the church and Europe irreparably. Though Luther’s story is rooted in theological history, his role as a dissenter questioning authority is universal.

The Luther in John Kirk’s Martin Luther: Apostle of Defiance presents a remarkably unbiased account of his motives and conduct, occasionally utilizing the vulgar language of his peasant boyhood and freely admitting to the possibility that his quarrel with the pope stemmed from hostility toward his own father. But he stresses throughout that his goal was reform, not revolution–spiritual, not temporal, emancipation. Steve Young, an alumnus of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, plays this two-hour monologue with just the right balance of holiness and heartiness, but Kirk’s direction brings him to peaks of emotional intensity too early, and Young can only subside until the script demands another burst of passion.

–Mary Shen Barnidge