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100 Saints You Should Know

a Southeastern Premiere
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by Kate Fodor

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 3582

SHOWING : March 18, 2010 - April 17, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

The lives of five people collide in this emotionally charged drama about unraveling faith and the redemptive power of human connection. While Matthew is on an enforced furlough from the priesthood, he seeks refuge at the home of his curious and devout mother. He is followed by Theresa, the rectory’s cleaning lady, who is desperately searching for meaning and completion while trying her best to raise her unruly teenage daughter alone. Through vividly poignant character sketches, we find sometimes that God really is in the details – even when those details get messy. Featuring Carolyn Cook.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Susan Reid
Sound Designer Dan Bauman
Costume Designer English Benning
Prop Master Melisa Dubois
Scenic Designer Bob Hoffman
Lighting Designer Katie McCreary
Colleen Sheila Allen
Theresa Carolyn Cook
Abby Rachel DeJulio
Garrett Barrett Doyle
Matthew Doyle Reynolds
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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By Me Sainted Mither
by playgoer
Sunday, April 18, 2010
4.0
Kate Fodor has written five extremely difficult roles in "100 Saints You Should Know." On one side, we have Matthew, a priest in a crisis of faith, and his Irish mother Colleen, who has strong love for her son, but also strong ideas about what is right and wrong. On the other side, we have Theresa, the grown daughter of a pair of logicians, who has thrown her life away on sex and cigarettes, and her teenage daughter Abby, who is developing an external mean streak while craving structure and normality on the inside. Between the two sides, we have Garrett, the teenage boy who delivers groceries to Colleen and who has a fascination with the forbidden. Mix them together in various permutations and you have the makings of tragedy, with a great number of character-driven laughs along the way.

The performances are all excellent. Carolyn Cook in particular (as Theresa) makes wonderful acting choices in her delivery of lines. Rachel DeJulio (as her daughter Abby) is winning and eye-riveting up to her final scene. Barrett Doyle (as Garrett) brings intensity and sweetness to his role as a high school loner. Doyle Reynolds (as Father Matthew) believably portrays a man in crisis, and Sheila Allen (as his mother Colleen) brings both warmth and flintiness to her role.

None of them, however, truly seem to become the characters Kate Fodor has written. In Carolyn Cook's case, the problem is in her physical looks. She is just too pretty, trim, and young-looking to convincingly portray a woman with an abusive boyfriend, a woman who has thrown away the advantages of childhood to become a Dead Head, a woman with fading looks and embarrassingly tight jeans. Rachel DeJulio comes closer to being her character, but her performance loses focus in her final scene, where happy childhood memories should meld with the thought of recent tragic events. Instead, she seems to move from one focus to another rather than having a nuanced layering of both.

Doyle Reynolds keeps an unvaried lugubriousness throughout the play when more variety would help in making his character more magnetic and watchable. Sheila Allen doesn't do anything to make the seemingly inconsistent moods of her character make character sense. She also has some volume problems in comparison to the rest of the cast and to the sound effects that introduce most scenes. Barrett Doyle does a wonderful job of portraying the innate goodness and loneliness of his character, but doesn't have a layer of coarseness that his lines suggest.

The problems are more in the writing and the direction than in the performances. Susan Reid keeps a fairly leisurely pace throughout much of the play, with the exception of one shouting match between mother and daughter. The pace allows character-driven moments to have their full impact, and the play doesn't seem particularly long in the watching. Glancing at one's watch at the end, though, confirms that the running time is probably longer than it needs to be. A bit more crispness would have helped, and the director could have helped the actors to formulate completely believable performances from beginning to end.

The set, designed by Bob Hoffman, does a nice job of delineating a number of different settings spread across the wide stage. I was particularly impressed by the wall-less rooms with frameless doors. The set allowed action to move smoothly from one location to another. In addition, the stage crew of Jude Futral and Paige Mattox did a nice bit of comic by-play during intermission when a small set change was needed.

"100 Saints You Should Know" has some extremely strong elements, and its excellent acting is a pleasure to view. The overall impact, though, is not as strong and lasting as it could be. The fractured scenes don't build on one another as the play goes on, making the story-telling less effective than would be desired. Still and all, it's an enjoyable and moving evening of theatre. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Crisis of Calling
by Dedalus
Thursday, April 8, 2010
4.0
Father Matthew had a calling to the priesthood. A realization of his own sexual nature has initiated a crisis in that calling (if not the faith that inspired it). His mother, Colleen, an Irish-Catholic to the core, has a calling to be the mother of a priest. Matthew’s crisis, of course, becomes hers.

Abby has a calling to be a “bad girl.” A teenaged recluse, she is surly, obscene, and aggressive. When her manipulation of an innocent contemporary, Garrett, goes bizarrely wrong, she suffers her own crisis. Abby’s mother, Theresa, has been a permissive single mother for much of her adult life. She is now paying the dividend of that calling, and seeks out Father Matthew, for whom she works as a housecleaner.

Welcome to “100 Saints You Should Know,” Kate Fodor’s exercise in intellectual questing, now being given a gentle airing at Actors Express.

I have to confess to a little ambivalence about this play. Composed of a series of well-written, brilliantly acted moments, it adds up to a strangely hollow whole. We’re given crises that eventually go unresolved, characters who retain only the sketchiest of backgrounds, and conversations that lead to few conversions. Each character is written with sharp precision, and all beautifully articulate their frustrations and concerns, but the playwright leaves them hanging. Although I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed their company, I was also surprised by how quickly I forgot them. Even now, I have to strain to recall specific details, specific conversations.

What I DON’T have a problem recalling is the skill shown by the performers. I’m always happy to see Carolyn Cook and Doyle Reynolds on stage, and here, as expected, they deliver in spades. Mr. Reynolds’ Father Matthew is a gentle man, a good man, confused by the contradictions his sexuality play with his calling, struggling to hold onto his faith even as his calling slips away. Ms. Cook’s Theresa is funny and real, irritated by her daughter’s acting-out episodes, oddly content with the direction her life has taken, yet recognizing the possibilities that are still out there. These two have a second-act scene in a hospital waiting room that is an almost perfect moment – a physical reaching out that masks a more emotional reaching out that is, of course, cut too short by circumstance.

I also have to give a huge shout-out to newcomer Rachel DeJulio, who gives the rebellious Abby just the right undercoat of vulnerability to make her angry-teenager moments ring true (if recognizably irritating). This is a very promising debut, and I hope to see more of her future work. Barrett Doyle and Sheila Allen give wonderful support as Garrett and Colleen, and Susan Reid has directed all briskly and effectively.

Still and all, I have to repeat that, production and performances aside, this is not a particularly memorable piece. A lot of that has to do with the actual structure, the arc of what the characters do to get from the beginning to the end. Father Matthew’s crisis is never really dealt with, and Theresa and Abby can only find a temporary truce in what is presumed to be an ongoing battle. Yes, there is incident and consequence, but, it struck me that the characters were singularly under-affected by that consequence. The play seemed to me little more than a series of episodes, rather like a pleasant television series than can be watched out of order without any lessening of understanding (or enjoyment).

On the other hand, these are such well-written characters, such well-written scenes, that I have high expectations for playwright Fodor’s future work. I also like how Ms. Fodor doesn’t have Father Matthew actually act on his new-found sexuality, as would have been so easy in today’s climate of constant priest-scandals. So, even with this play’s seeming-to-me-limitations, Ms. Fodor has found her own calling, and she should be included in any listing of “100 New Playwrights You Should Know.”

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

Afternote: This is a nice companion piece to Theatrical Outfit’s “The Sunset Limited,” which also tackles questions of faith and action. While this play certainly has more incident and is more theatrical in its scope, I found the Theatrical Outfit production more memorable. I happily concede this is probably a minority opinion.

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