Grain of Salt: Quite Tasty, Needs a Dash of Pepper

Wes Babcock

 

This verbatim production produced by Abalone Productions and a solid ensemble cast examines the diverse perspectives of people on the institutionalized Church, spirituality, and the reasons these are such polarizing topics in society.

As four members of the cast (Allison Harris, Robin Hodge, Richard Gélinas, Megan Piercy Monafu) file into the sanctuary and take up positions along the main aisle, the performance begins with live organ music, provided by the fifth member of the ensemble, Lewis Wynne-Jones playing the beautiful pipe organ at St. Alban’s Church, which is basically the perfect venue for this show. The musical choice (musical direction by Steven Lafond) features a harmonious discord between some classic hymnal-type themes and some more modern movements, which not only puts Church-goers in the right mood to discuss God, but also reflects the disparate voices that populate this verbatim production.

The chorus work in this production is strong, especially during the songs they sing a cappella throughout the show. Their unified movements and timing shine as one of the show’s brightest elements. I wish some actions they do together (spreading the blanket, distributing items) were a little more crisp, but that in no way undermines the ensemble’s ability to work well, and with good chemistry, together. The individualized aspect of the chorus does work well symbolically during the communion scene, which created a wonderful silence in the sanctuary.

Individual performances, notably those by Hodge and Harris, generally came through as genuine, which is remarkable considering the number of voices played by each actor throughout the show. There were a few speeches, by Wynne-Jones in particular, where the actor didn’t quite meet the challenge to render a new character, and fell into a caricature-like physicality. This was the exception, rather than the rule, and the good pace of the script prevents any one character from stealing (or breaking) the spotlight.

Monafu, as well as doing a commendable job playing the role of the playwright, also actually was the playwright, which in the case of this verbatim production seems to mean interviewing people and collating their words and stories into an interesting conversation. Her script does a good job representing the diverse views and effects of the Church in society, and maintains an entertaining pace. The parts where the playwright character explains her own impressions of the project are charming, but fall a bit short of suggesting a purpose or direction for the show to realize beyond illustrating the need to have a conversation about these things. We do, but providing some direction in how to have that conversation might be a good next step.

I liked this show, and while perhaps the dialogue that this show calls for has already begun, it does address issues of continued importance to the course of our society. It certainly doesn’t “spam you with Jesus,” and is worth a look for its solid ensemble cast and the music alone.

 

Upcoming Shows: (BYOV F: St. Alban’s Church)

 

June 26 @ 19:00

June 27 @ 19:00

June 28 @ 13:00 & 17:00