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‘Killing Buddha’ an ancient morality tale

The Buddha encounters a serial killer who wants to repent.

Should he turn him in? Can the man be rehabilitated? Or does he deserve to die?

“Killing Buddha” examines these questions and invites audience participation at The Cell at 8 p.m. Friday, July 8 and 2 p.m. Saturday, July 9.

Inspired by “An Iliad,” a modern-day version of Homer’s classic, the story opens with two homeless storytellers. One is a musician, the other an actor. They’re scavenging a meal and telling a folk tale about an encounter between the Buddha and a murderer in the Himalayas.

“It’s a story about a person who is regarded as similar to a terrorist of his time,” said Algernon D’Ammassa, who co-wrote and stars in the play with Randy Granger.

The piece provokes questions about how we deal with criminals, the definition of a terrorist and rehabilitation. A trial scene invites the audience into a discussion of justice.

“When we’re doing our job well, the audience wants to participate in this conversation,” D’Ammassa said.

A practicing Buddhist, D’Ammassa based the script on part of a traditional children’s story about the Buddha.

“We’re portraying him as a human being who is flawed,” he said. “He’s dealt with this situation where he encounters somebody who’s done horrific things and wants to repent.

The murderer triggers a host of reactions.

“Some people want to kill him; some people want to lock him up,” D’Ammassa said. “It’s an ancient story that feels like a contemporary story.”

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