IBJOpinion

LOU'S VIEWS: Pulpit fiction

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

It’s tricky to find a well-rounded person of the cloth on stage. They’re often portrayed as either saintly (see “Les Miserables”) or suspect (see “Doubt”).

But complexity is a big part of the appeal of “The Mountaintop,” Katori Hall’s Twilight Zone-ish play about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Indiana Repertory Theatre (through April 27) and Lucas Hnath’s “The Christians,” which recently concluded a run at the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival of New American Plays. Throw in some preaching from Reno Sweeney and priests both fake and real in Beef & Boards’ “Anything Goes” (through May 11) and you have the makings of an unconventional religious convention in area theaters of late.
 

ae-zrp-6794-1col.jpg David Alan Anderson plays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Katori Hall’s fantasy “The Mountaintop.” (Photo courtesy of Zach Rosing)

Let’s start with “The Mountaintop,” one of the most produced plays in the country this season. Those expecting standard docu-drama may be shocked not just by the language and overt flirtation contained therein, but also at the fantastical twist the story takes.

The play is set in a nondescript room at the Lorraine Hotel the night before King’s assassination—and if that’s a spoiler, then you need to brush up on your history. David Alan Anderson plays King as a man weary but not beaten. Coffee and cigarettes are an ineffective balm against a bad cough and, with the visit of an attractive maid, Camae (Tracey N. Bonner), King seems on the brink of sadly proving that he’s “just a man.”

But Hall is interested in more than just an up-close-and-personal look at the last night of a martyr. Revealing how the play manifests that “more” would be spoiling things. Suffice it to say that I didn’t completely buy the gimmick—and some of the cutesy dialogue—but it does lead to a stirring conclusion. And scenic designer Robert M. Koharchik’s wise methods of adapting the thrust stage to the non-realistic final moments help considerably.

My one wish is that patrons could see the show, as I did, with a student audience. Watching the show connect with—and feeling the impact of the final moments on—a generation it seems written for added considerably to its appeal.
__________

The location for “The Christians” is a megachurch whose pastor (Andrew Garman) has two pieces of news for his congregation. One is that the building itself has, thanks to their generosity, been paid off. The other is that his reading of the Bible has led him to conclude that it does not exist. He still believes in Jesus. But not in the idea of eternal punishment for those who don’t.


ae-andrew-garman-the-christians-photo-by-michael-brosilow-15col.jpg A pastor (Andrew Garman) delivers divisive news to his flock in Lucas Hnath’s “The Christians.” (Photo courtesy of Michael Brosilow)

“The Christians,” in which both sermon and searching one-on-one conversations are treated with the same microphone-in-hand amplification, speaks in a unique style but never, pardon the expression, preaches.

There is no bad guy here—not the assistant pastor whose faith leads him to guide many of the flock away, not the layperson whose job it is to make sure there’s a roof over the congregants’ heads, not the pastor’s wife—who is holding in anger for not being clued into her husband’s conversion—and not a choir member who honestly and painfully questions the implications of her spiritual leader’s revelations.

I have faith that productions of this terrific new play will be fruitful and multiply.
__________
 

ae-minister-and-moonface-1col.jpg Ian Frazier, left, ministers to shipboard heathens in “Anything Goes” at Beef & Boards. (Photo courtesy of Beef & Boards)

In “Anything Goes,” we get Public Enemy #13 Moonface Martin (Jack Milo) disguising as a priest. We get Reno Sweeney (Deb Wims) testifying to the powers of the Biblical trumpet in the song “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” and we get a seemingly devil-may-care set of characters who, ultimately and willingly, pair off in holy matrimony.

While the Beef & Boards production never comes too close to its potential, this shipboard musical comedy classic provides earnest renditions of a raft of now-familiar Cole Porter songs, some eager performances (Whitney Meyer stands out in the relatively thankless role of Hope Harcourt), and some old-school Asian stereotyping that could ignite the #cancelcolbert crowd.•
__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

ADVERTISEMENT