Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

WCVE's John Porter: "This Beautiful City" is "a testament to the power of theatre."

This Beautiful City Shines at Triangle Players

It’s taken me a longer time to write a review of THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY, the Acts of Faith entry now playing at the Richmond Triangle Players. I always like to have a few days to think about a piece, formulate my thoughts, and then prepare what I hope will be a well-reasoned story celebrating the magic of theatre; but this piece has taken a week to scribble down, and I’m still nowhere near exhausting my thoughts on this powerful story.

Created by a group called The Civilians much in the manner of The Laramie Project, this group spent time interviewing the citizens of Colorado Springs, Colorado; which has been call “The Evangelical Capital of the World.” The group was examining what it meant to be evangelical and exploring the growth of mega-churches created by James Dobson and Ted Haggard. Yes, that Ted Haggard who was caught in a drug and sex scandal and then tried to lie his way out of it.

This Beautiful City managed to do something that is pretty rare these days – if fooled me with a change of direction as I thought the second act would be dogpile on Ted time, but the playwrights, while touching on the subject, actually developed a parallel story about a pastor who faced a similar crises, admitted he was homosexual, was banished from his church, and who rose again as a more powerful voice within the Christian community.

The ensemble that makes up the cast – each person playing several different roles, is very tight. Each person has more than one standout role, and they are able to create these characters with subtle changes in clothing and props. Andrew Hamm truly makes an impact with his different characters, moving chameleon-like through a Jewish Air Force officer, a balladeer, a writer trying to bring down the evangelicals, and others. Scott Melton is an eerie Ted Haggard, Tarnee Kendell Hudson does fantastic street girls, an Emmanuel Choir Member and Ben Reynolds. Christy Mullins and Lanaya Burnette show up in a variety of roles, and Jason Campbell gives the play its heart and soul in the space of one monologue.

Philip Milone’s set is all space and platforms – elevating positions while still allowing space for movement. K. Jenna Ferree’s lights are dead on – keeping her actors lit for emphasis, Ashley Davis’ costumes serve well as character definers, and Kim Fox does a great job serving as Musical Director and playing the piano during the show.

John Knapp’s direction is crisp, there is little if any lag time between scenes. The pace builds and takes you along on this journey of discovery. Notice too, the way he presents his performers – those that favor one political side enter on the right, others on the left, with some crossing the stage playing both sides. It’s a nice, subtle touch to help further reveal his characters.

THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY is one of those rare plays that are entertaining and still make you think and explore your own feelings. It is a testament to the power of theatre that will cause more debates than solve. The play has a short run, so do not wait to catch it – make the time to see this one.

For WCVE Public Radio, I’m John Porter.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home