The production begins with those dancers, Nick Horan and Dan Rosenstrauch, in one of choreographer Lynn Marie Ruses potent if too-portentous duets. Then Fodors play (the dance sequences arent in the script) comes alive. We meet Theresa, whos been so kicked around by life as a single mother shes beginning to wonder if God hasnt been making her ready to pray. Theresas biggest problem is daughter Abby, who takes drugs and sleeps around, urinates outdoors and tells her mother that she hates her. When Abby meets grocery boy Garrett, she cajoles him into admitting that he surfs gay internet sites on his fathers computer, and challenges him to get really drunk and strip off her clothes.
Meanwhile, Father Matthew turns out to be fascinated by Christian mystic poetry that sounds as if it were describing gay sex, and confesses to the audience that hes been suspended from the church for having been found with art photos of naked men. In some of the most poignant scenes in the play, Theresa tries to get spiritual guidance from Matthew at precisely the moment that hes feeling most alienated from the church. An urgent crisis involving all these characters brings the themes together, and finally Matthew has to decide whats more important to him, his faith or his sexuality. If we had any doubt, those oh-so-corporeal dancers are always ready to show up and place their votes.
The production, presented by the USF College of the Arts, features wonderful acting, with the one exception of Manny Franco as Father Matthew. Franco is not yet a technically proficient performer, and mostly mopes around through the plays two acts without showing variety or depth. But as his mother Colleen, Jessica Dingman is superb, easily convincing us that it was her voice and not Gods that sent Matthew into the priesthood. Dingmans Colleen sports a fine Irish accent, and in her frumpy light purple robe designed by Marilyn Gaspardo Bertch she stands for all well-meaning people who dominate and intimidate others while imagining themselves complete softies.
As wayward Abby, Destiny Ramsey (above, with Patrick Bolger) is a parents nightmare, living for self with no regard for others, despising all authority and happily putting nerdish Garrett in personal danger. As Garrett, Bolger is close to perfect: hes got ADHD, hes dangerously naïve, and he thinks nothing of medicating his mental distress with alcohol. Finally, Tia Jemison is warm, bright and loving as Theresa, who once was a Deadhead, and now is starting to think that there may be a God to follow instead.
Director Glamsch is one of the most skillful and innovative artists in the Bay area (which, unfortunately for us, he may be leaving soon), and he creates a constantly interesting pageant, using all ground areas as well as upper platforms in the Theatre II space. Designer Amanda Williams simply furnishes that space Colleens living room here, Abbys bedroom up there but the dialogue of the play is so specific and realistic, a more photographic design is really unnecessary. And speaking of photographs, its a nice touch to have Colleens house include pictures of the Pope and the Kennedys.
So can sex and religion mix?
Father Matthew thinks he knows, and so does his mother.
You decide which of them is headed in the right direction.