Faith fuels humor at The Boulevard Theatre
The Boulevard Theatre’s Savannah Disputation unfolds in the living room of Mary and Margaret, two elderly unmarried sisters living comfortably together in small Catholic Savannah neighborhood.
To the audience, Mary appears to be one of those relatives we’re thankful to only have to see once a year. She is confident, in-charge, brash and rude if necessary. She accepts that others see her as mean-spirited, and is satisfied with her choices regardless of the consequences. Sally Marks is extraordinary in this role — in motion, quick to speak, ready to direct others, never giving an inch. Even a temporary case of laryngitis adds to her determination.
Her sister, Margaret, is a rarer personality — withdrawn, uncertain and exceedingly nice to everyone out of concern for what others may think. Actress Joan End embodies this personality by pursing her lips, flashing her eyes around the room or looking down, holding her hands to her side. Observe closely. Her discomfort is contained inside her.
When a young eager evangelistic Christian, Melissa, played by Jamieson Hawkins, shows up on their doorstep one day to save their souls, the sisters react predictably. Margaret invites her in. Mary brusquely dismisses her, then takes on the challenge of proving her wrong.
The arguments frighten Margaret and spur Mary on to bolder moves. Mary arranges for Melissa to return when she can also invite the parish priest, Father Murphy. He is both a folksy friendly soul and a highly qualified academic in the details of faith.
Played by Pat Perkins, Father Murphy is better when dispensing common wisdom than when interjecting academic arguments. The play slows briefly when he speaks knowledgeably of the rational examination of the historic origins of faith (Apologetics).
But even Father Murphy knows that. Faith is not intended to be subject to such parsing.
Faith is not the only theme. Savannah Disputation succeeds because the characters become real to us. Their personal concerns emerge and add dimension to the play. Stereotypes fuel the humor, but are broken to serve the story. We’d like to meet all of them ‘on the other side.’
Anyone, other than those who wish to remain convinced that either the Holy Book or the Pope is infallible, will enjoy this play.
The Boulevard Theatre is celebrating a 25th anniversary in Kinnickinnic storefront too narrow for contemporary retail use. The audience shares the room with the actors, eavesdropping on the conversation. This is intimate theater. Come for the hilarious, warm welcome by Boulevard Artistic Director Mark Bucher, stay for the play.
Savannah Disputation runs through Jan. 16. Tickets are $20; call the Boulevard, 414-744-5757, or visit the company’s website.