Harbor Stage Offers a Theatrical Revival in 'Church'
By: Susan Blood, July 26, 2012
ROBERT KROPF/HSC - The cast of 'Church' rehearses for an Evangelical revival dance number. The play, written by Young Jean Lee and directed by Brenda Withers, will be performed at Harbor Stage Company in Wellfleet through August 11.
Church, Harbor Stage Company's latest offering, is like nothing you've ever seen before. There is no plot and no synopsis. It's more like a light show than a play, except instead of lights, you're watching ideas and beliefs ricochet through the space.
In Church, four charismatic reverends deliver sermons in an Evangelical Roadshow format. The set is austere and a little rickety. Sermons are delivered with sometimes painful earnestness. It's very human, raw and direct.
It seems simple, but here's the catch: just as you're thinking something is true and right and you want to take it home in your pocket and live it, the logic changes and the diatribe goes completely off the rails into Crazyland.
And then you wonder if what sounded so perfect a few minutes ago was also completely crazy and you just didn't notice.
Delusions or prophecy?
According to a press release, Church was written by Young Jean Lee as an attempt to reconcile a life-long struggle with her Evangelical background. It is a very real church experience – with some awkward and uncomfortable moments. It is a tender dealing with the wild ride of Evangelical thought.
By observing how different people of the same culture view good and evil, you may not get a clearer understanding of divinity— but you will get a clearer picture of humanity.
Everyone has his or her perception of what is holy and what is not. One person's vision of Satan appearing as a unicorn is another person's temptation in the wilderness. It's only crazy if you're the person who doesn't believe it.
Get thee to Church!
ChurchHarbor Stage Company 15 Kendrick Ave, Wellfleet
Performances Wednesday - Saturday at 7:30 PM through August 11
It goes the other way, too. Just as I'd settle into religious-dismissive mode, the play would present something wonderful and I'd be sucked back in. At one point, a choreographed dance number had me so completely full of happiness I was afraid I'd do something embarrassing.
A leap of faith
Director Brenda Withers also plays a reverend on stage, joining Amanda Collins and Amie Lytle, led by Jonathan Fielding – whose direct approach to acting had me completely (and intentionally) rattled.
I mentioned that the set is a little rickety. The best thing about the set – aside from it being perfect for the feel of Church - was how different it was from Hedda Gabler, the first play of Harbor Stage's season.
Hedda Gabler and Church could not be more vastly dissimilar - and that would be the point. It's a bit early for generalizations, but if I were to generalize, I'd say that this is theater that you won't always be familiar with, but it's safe to have faith and just jump.
Faith is something I learned a thing or two about in Church.