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Heaven on Earth

a Play
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by Robert Schenkkan

COMPANY : Lionheart Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Norcross Community and Cultural Arts Center
ID# 3497

SHOWING : September 04, 2009 - September 20, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Bobby lives with his maternal grandmother, Martha, in Waylon, Texas, where not much goes on and work is hard to come by. Martha has worked for thirty years in the local beauty shop, and has raised Bobby since her daughter and son-in-law's death in a car accident, which Bobby, as a young boy, survived. Even after he'd grown and moved away, Bobby returns to Martha after financial failures in a drunken stupor. It is always a tough living arrangement since Martha maintains an incredible optimism and total belief in God, and Bobby rejects God and religion, is always pessimistic and remains angry over his parents' death. They must come to an understanding that believing in themselves and each other will make their lives full again.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Jason Caldwell
Bobby Jr. James Beck
Jesse Tanya Carroll
John Morrow James Connor
Miguel David Lankford
Martha Debbie McLaughlin
Tom Dooley Joseph McLaughlin
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REVIEWS

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Almost Heaven
by playgoer
Sunday, September 6, 2009
4.5
"Heaven on Earth" is a smart, concise script that is a lot less preachy than a synopsis would suggest. Lionheart's production is equally smart, to-the-point, and heartfelt.

The two main characters, Martha and her grandson Bobby Jr., each face a crisis of faith in the play, one's compounding the other's. The seriousness of their predicaments is tempered by the wise-cracking attitude of next-door-neighbor Jesse, the earthy raucousness of Bobby Jr.'s pal Miguel, the self-absorbed shenanigans of broadcaster John Morrow, and the quiet good humor of the mysterious Tom Dooley.

The acting is top-notch across the board. James Beck revels in Bobby Jr.'s boozy streak of contentiousness, which contrasts nicely with Debbie McLaughlin's steadfast sincerity. The two play well off one another, interacting equally well with the others in the cast. David Lankford, while only mildly Hispanic in looks, brings conviction to his part. Tanya Carroll, as always, balances the comedy of her lines with the intensity of her reactions in a masterful fashion. James Conner adds a smile-inducing narcissism to his line readings, and Joseph McLaughlin does very well in a role that requires him to underplay.

The play contains some coarse language, which supplies part of the tension between Bobby Jr. and his staid grandmother. As such, it is an integral part of the play, rather than a tacked-on means of making the script sound "contemporary." If I had any problem at all with the script, it was that the comic lines were spread a little too evenly through the cast, making too many of the characters too alike in their expression of humor.

The ramshackle (but sturdy) set works extremely well. It consists on one side of a porch and front door, surrounded by a motley collection of second-hand appliances, and on the other of a screen door and small seating area. Parts of the auditorium are used for exits and entrances, enhancing the suggestion of the audience occupying the yard of two adjoining houses. A special effect concerning the upright freezer center stage works beautifully without telegraphing itself beforehand.

I enjoyed this play a lot more than I thought I would. The script doesn't linger over the religio-philosophical issues it raises; it uses them as a springboard to examine the relationship and inner lives of Martha and Bobby Jr. The only let-down I had was in the final moment of the play, which was hurried and played by the characters face-to-face. It needed to be done with both facing the audience, Bobby Jr.'s arms wrapped around Martha, letting us all see the looks in their faces as the "button" of this final moment plays its magic.

All-in-all, "Heaven on Earth" is a first-rate production by Lionheart Theatre Company. The pace is brisk, so there's no flagging of attention, and the script has several unexpected twists and turns that keep the action moving. It was a pleasure to attend. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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