Hesperia at Writers’ Theatre | Theater review

Randall Colburn’s small-town tale of repentance and salvation returns in a refined second production with a stellar cast.
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
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Photograph: Michael BrosilowNathan Hosner and Kelly O'Sullivan in Hesperia at Writers' Theatre
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
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Photograph: Michael BrosilowKelly O'Sullivan and Nathan Hosner in Hesperia at Writers' Theatre
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
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Photograph: Michael BrosilowKelly O'Sullivan, Erik Hellman and Nathan Hosner in Hesperia at Writers' Theatre
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
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Photograph: Michael BrosilowRebecca Buller and Nathan Hosner in Hesperia at Writers' Theatre
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
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Photograph: Michael BrosilowErik Hellman and Kelly O'Sullivan in Hesperia at Writers' Theatre
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
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Photograph: Michael BrosilowErik Hellman and Kelly O'Sullivan in Hesperia at Writers' Theatre
By Kris Vire |
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The validity of repentance often arises in discussions of death-row inmates who claim to have found God, or philandering politicians selling their contrition on the campaign trail. But it’s also a thorny question in personal relationships, particularly for those who subscribe to a religion that speaks the language of unconditional forgiveness—an honorable goal that proves difficult in practical human terms. This disconnect is at the heart of Randall Colburn’s intelligent, compassionate drama, now receiving a confident second production in Glencoe following its 2010 debut at the Right Brain Project.

After a long stint in L.A. that included a career in porn, filming exclusively with her childhood sweetheart Ian (Nathan Hosner, a classical actor making a welcome foray into the contemporary), Claudia (sharp and radiant Kelly O’Sullivan) has returned to the small-town Midwest seeking redemption. She finds it, maybe, with a dorkily affable teacher and youth minister nicknamed Trick (Erik Hellman, finding hints of vanity in his character’s best intentions). Claudia sends Ian an invitation to her wedding but seems surprised when he shows up; she isn’t displeased, though, until Ian, flailing and on the run, suggests he might put down roots in Hesperia as well. His desire for salvation seems as opportunistic to Claudia as hers may seem to us.

Colburn’s nuanced, nonjudgmental view of sex and Christianity remains as refreshing as it was 18 months ago, but his interim revisions and Stuart Carden’s ideally cast production have deepened the admirable, multifaceted uncertainties in his script. Carden’s subtle shifts of tone and pacing are just right, while each of his five splendid actors—including Tyler Ross as a guileless youth-group member and Rebecca Buller as Ian’s naive new love interest—strikes gold.

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