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The Missionary Position

a Comedy
CATEGORY :
by Keith Reddin

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 2725

SHOWING : February 15, 2008 - March 16, 2008

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

An Evangelical Consultant to a Presidential Candidate is kept in the background as he's shuffled from Hotel Room to Hotel Room. Something's Gotta Give!


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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by blackoleander
Friday, March 14, 2008
4.0
Basically the only times I really laughed were when Tess Malis Kincaid was on stage. I thought Brik Berkes was sweet, and I think he's a wonderful actor. It was interesting to see the dimensions of his character. I found that I liked him even though I strongly disagreed with his views, which is something I don't do enough of, in the theatre, or away from it. This play helped me to get away from my everyday political polarization of people and remind me that there are good and bad guys on both sides. I liked the Johnny Cash, Keith Urban, Beck interludes. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
On Balance
by Dedalus
Monday, March 10, 2008
4.5
For me, Religion in Politics has become a “Hot Button” Issue. For me, faith is (or should be) a matter of personal conscience, and should not dictate how politics is made. For me, Secularism is an ideal that demands a political (that is, governmental) neutrality towards religion and matters of faith.

Of course, most of us have a penchant for combining our values with the religious texts that often provide their genesis (if you’ll forgive the play on words). The most difficult thing in the world is to separate “what we believe” from “why we believe it,” to recognize that the “values” we identify as religious, are shared by those who don’t share our particular faith (or lack thereof).

All this is to let you know the philosophical filters through which I watched Horizon Theatre’s production of “The Missionary Position” by Keith Reddin. That I believe this is an excellent play given an excellent production should, on no account, blind you to its virtues if, in fact, you believe everything I said above is hogwash of the highest order.

In summary, Roger (Brik Berkes) is a “Christian Political Operative,” a consultant in the campaign of an unseen Republican Presidential hopeful. He holds court in “Multiple Hotel Rooms Across the Nation,” all looking the same except for the painting above the bed and the view off the balcony. He develops an intense dislike for the Candidate’s Finance Manager (Anthony Rodriguez) and an affection for a Conservative Congressional Candidate (an hysterically funny Tess Malis Kincaid). A single act leads to a conflict of conscience and politics and creates a denouement that has come distressingly familiar to those of us who follow politics with an avid, indeed, with a voyeuristic obsession.

On the whole, I found a lot of balance in this play. We do NOT see a wafer-thin caricature of the sort of buffoon those of us on the Secular Left suspect is under the expensive suits of Evangelicals who enter the political arena. We DO see his blinders, the filters we suspect are there on everyone who is passionate about any belief, religious or otherwise.

We are given one disturbing scene in which Roger makes a snap judgment about a pregnant cleaning woman, and cruelly lectures her about salvation and responsibility, knowing nothing about her or her situation. This is balanced by a surprisingly tender scene, a dream Roger has about a long-lost love, and a happiness he could have enjoyed. And we see Roger being treated in the end in the exact same way (with the exact same blocking) in which he treated the hapless maid earlier.

This is a very tightly written script, that would, in lesser hands, seem contrived. Every action, every argument is balanced by another in which a lie or minor hypocrisy is revealed, or a character is made to pay, to be “hoist on his own petard.” All the Hotel Rooms are the same (because they’re on the same set), but this lets Roger be confused about where he is. The device also comments on the homogenization of Americana. All the maids are played by the same actress (a marvelous Bethany Irby, who handles with aplomb at least four different dialects and five different characters), but this makes it inevitable that Roger will mix them up. His Dream scene then justifies why he would think they look alike.

I think the key to the success of this play is Brik Berkes. He is on stage from beginning to end, and must make us not only like this character, but understand why he acts as he does, why he MUST make the choices he does. We can respect his Passion and his Drive, even if we disagree with its justification. For me, his performance opened this character to a level of understanding I didn’t expect, given my own blinders. Yes, he makes mistakes, can be a judgmental prig, and embodies all the misguided Religious-Polical confluence we expect. But he is surprisingly likeable, surprisingly unhypocritical (in some ways), and, when faced with his mistakes and shortcomings, unsurprisingly repentant. At one point, he makes a long monologue involving the death of his step-father moving and appalling at the same time – and true to the character and the play. This is one of the best performances of the year, and some of the finest work I’ve seen from Mr. Berkes.

Tess Malis Kincaid again makes us realize she is one of the best comic actress in this (or any) city. She takes what is essentially a comic foil character, one who embodies all the clichés we Lefties have come to expect from the Right, but finds the humanity and humor in her. We don’t laugh at any “gags” or “schtick” she has come up with, but by the truth of the character she has created for us. She makes us laugh by simple vocal inflection, body posture, and honesty. I loved everything about her performance!

Rounding out the cast, Anthony Roderiguez is hilariously gruff and profane (I think my ears are still bleeding from some of his Mamet-like dialog) who perfectly embodies the savvy political operative this (and every) candidate needs. His Neil is a perfect counterpart to Mr. Berkes’ Roger, and their conflict is honestly arrived at, honestly portrayed, and perfectly realized.

With many (though, to my mind, not enough) references to the current political circus, this production is timely, funny, provoking, and, to my mind balanced.

Of course, given my own unbalanced mindset, this may be a position you approach with a missionary skepticism.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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