Thursday, September 20, 2018

Young Jean Lee's Existential Church

Church

Written by Young Jean Lee
Directed by Mira Morita

Crowded Fire Theater Company
September 13-October 6, 2018
The Portrero Stage, 1695 18th Street
San Francisco, CA , 94107


Say you have a friend that invites you to attend her church, and you agree out of politeness or curiosity. You go along, not knowing what to expect except the usual rote hymns, rituals and perhaps boredom. Then, SURPRISE!
Reverend Jose (Lawrence Radecker) preaches it

The unsuspecting audience, full of the charged anticipation of theater-goers, files into the small Portrero space where Crowded Fire is presenting Young Jean Lee’s play Church. The lights dim and everyone hushes up. We wait in the dark. And wait. Until we hear the calm yet unsettling voice of a man we later learn is “Reverend Jose” (Lawrence Radecker) who begins to tell us stories, stories that slowly chisel away to reveal our own insecurities, failings, foibles, weaknesses and pushes us to the brink of discomfort and possibly the Void.  Finally, to our sense of relief, the lights go up.

Nkechi Emeruwa, Alison Whismore, Jordan Maria Don, "Reverends"
We meet three women (Nkechi Emeruwa, Jordan Maria Don, and Alison Whismore), all designated as "Reverend." They exude a wild, contagious energy and fervor as they bring a weird sort of order with prayers of intention, the laying on of hands, the revved-up, roof-shaking shared experience. We listen to their stories even as they veer into the absurd and frighteningly graphic (perhaps familiar to many who were raised Catholic). The energy rises to maximum level, and we don’t know what is being believed but we go along with it, jumping up and down.

Invitation to the dance...

What’s the alternative? Twist in the winds of your own despair and meaninglessness?  Or believe, brother, believe? Raise your voice and rejoice, scream at the void, does it matter if you understand why? In his book The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker writes “Religion takes one’s very creatureliness, one’s insignificance, and makes it a condition of hope.” As more and more singers bound onto stage clapping and dancing to the spiritual “Ain’t Got Time to Die” in this "church," you have your own decision to make.

Church

CAST
Jordan MarĂ­a Don, Nkechi Emeruwa, and Alison Whismore as the Reverends
Lawrence Radecker* as Reverend Jose

PRODUCTION
Assistant Director: Nailah Harper-Malveaux*
Dramaturg: Sonia Fernandez*
Assistant Dramaturg: Isabelle Smith
Stage Manager: Rachel Mogan*
Assistant Stage Manager: Kitty Dacy
Scenic Designer:  Randy Wong-Westbrooke
Costume Designer: Alice Ruiz
Lighting Designer: Cassie Barnes
Sound Designer: James Ard*
Choreographer: Mark Allen Davis
Music Director: Min Kahng

*Crowded Fire Resident Artist

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