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The Savannah Disputation

a Comedy
by Evan Smith

COMPANY : Theatrical Outfit [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Balzer Theatre @ Herren's [WEBSITE]
ID# 4624

SHOWING : August 21, 2014 - September 07, 2014



In this 2009 dramatic comedy, two plain as-potatoes sisters of the Roman Catholic persuasion forget all about Southern charm when a peppy evangelical Christian comes to their door. “If you’re nice to them, they just keep coming back,” one sister tells the other. “They’re just like cats.”

Director Tess Malis Kincaid
Mary Alex Bond
Melissa Lane Carlock
Margaret Shannon Eubanks
Father Murphy Mark Kincaid
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by playgoer
Sunday, September 7, 2014
"The Savannah Disputation" by Evan Smith shows us what happens when sisters Mary (the cantankerous one) and Margaret (the self-professed "stupid" one) invite their local priest and an evangelical missionary-in-training to their house, in the hopes that the priest can point out flaws in the missionary’s conception of salvation through Jesus. As might be expected, there’s a lot of crackling interplay, but there’s also a lot of points of Biblical scholarship. Under the energetic direction of Tess Malis Kincaid, the production comes to entertaining life.

Lizz Dorsey’s set shows us the small living room and dining room of the house shared by Mary (Alex Bond) and Margaret (Shannon Eubanks). MC Park has furnished it with knickknacks galore that give the feeling of a lifetime of occupancy by the same residents. The setting is Savannah, Georgia, but the only true indication of that is the branch of a tree suspended stage right with Spanish moss draped on it in somewhat too symmetrical and unrealistic a pattern. Jeffrey Millsaps’ sound design fills the suggested exterior of the house with the subtle sounds of nighttime insects, rendered so beautifully as to seem entirely natural.

The play is being performed as a long one act play, which I think does it a disservice. There’s a natural act break about 35 minutes in. The rest of the play lasts over an hour. While it may be traditional to have a first act longer than the second, I see nothing wrong with reversing that. I’d prefer that to getting the feeling that I’d been sitting too long as the end of the play approaches. The final moment reminds us of a phone call indicating that a doctor’s test results are in and need to be discussed, but it doesn’t have the open-ended resonance it might have if the audience had been given a little breathing room during the performance.

The acting is all very professional. Mark Kincaid and Lane Carlock are believable as the priest and the evangelist missionary-in-training, and Alex Bond and Shannon Eubanks keep the action flowing as the sisters. I got the feeling, though, that the characterizations were less imaginative than they might have been. The surface descriptions of the characters have been brought to life, but hidden depths are rarely hinted at. In particular, I think the character of Margaret might better have been played as a meek and self-deprecating person than as a person of marginal intelligence. The sincerity of Shannon Eubanks’ performance and her physical comedy work, but the feeling is more that Margaret is considering the evangelist’s arguments because of her dim-wittedness than that she is subsumed by an interest in the afterlife due to a pessimistic anticipation of the test results. The play is entertaining from start to finish, but doesn’t resonate in the way the playwright probably intended. Still, it’s an interesting and often thought-provoking comedy with a ton of laughs along the way. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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