Theater review by Sandy MacDonald
Odds are, you already know where you stand on the gun-control debate, and Jason Odell Williams’s sprightly little polemic won’t do much to sway you. Still, he presents his argument so entertainingly, few would object to going along for the ride.
Authorial challenge Number 1 is engendering sympathy for the devil, incarnated as Senator Charles Whitmore (Rob Nagle), Republican of North Carolina, who’s running for reelection on a Christian values platform. Success is all but in the bag—except when, in an awkward moment following the funeral of 29 gunned-down children (schoolmates of his own boys), he blabbed to an independent reporter (blogger) that the incident has shaken his faith in God.
As in Tracy Letts’s Man from Nebraska, this epiphany does not go over well with Whitmore’s wife, Sara (Nadia Bowers), a pugnacious and flirtatious Southern belle. Moreover, the Senator doesn’t have the option of taking a bit of downtime in which to explore his newfound agnosticism: he’s scheduled to deliver a clincher speech within a matter of minutes.
While Whitmore's campaign manager Alex Klein (Christa Scott-Reed as a nonrancid Kellyanne Conway) ties herself in knots attempting spin control, Sara draws on her inner Lady Macbeth. Both, competing madly, are powerless to prevent the porcine but semi-intelligent senator from going off-script.
Williams is adept at jacking up the tension, and he leavens potentially leaden debates with plenty of humor. Much of it transpires between the two women running Whitmore’s life, but the senator gets in his share of zingers, too: This “compassionate conservative” is not as cookie-cutter as he might initially appear.
When’s the last time you left a play complaining that it was too short? This one zips by so fast, you barely have time to catch your breath; its brevity may well be part of the message. Even if Williams's script ends up more as position paper than play, the writer-director, aided by a crack cast, has come up with an efficient delivery system for words that need to be said and heard.
New World Stages. By Jason Odell Williams. Directed by Markus Potter. With Rob Nagle, Nadia Bowers, Christa Scott-Reed. Running time: 1hr 10mins. No intermission.
TIME OUT DISCOUNT TICKET OFFER:
CHURCH & STATE
A Serious Comedy. Honest To God.
Buy now and save over 35%. Tickets as low as $39!
Mezzanine $39 (regular price $59), orchestra $49 (regular price $89)
Promotional description: Church & State is a fast-paced, seriously funny take on faith, politics, and “The Twitter.” It’s three days before Charles Whitmore’s Senate re-election and he’s decided to finally tell the public exactly what’s on his mind, no filter. What could possibly go wrong? Written by Emmy Nominee Jason Odell Williams, and directed by Markus Potter. Nominated for 3 L.A. Ovation Awards: Best Original Play, Best Production and Best Lead Actor in a Play.
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Performance schedule: Monday, Wednesday–Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, Sunday at 3pm and 7:30pm
All prices include a $2 facility fee. Code valid for performances through Sept 3. 2017. All sales are final; no refunds or exchanges. Offer subject to availability and prior sale. Not valid in combination with any other offers. Normal service charges apply to phone and internet orders. Performance schedule subject to change. Offer may be revoked or modified at any time without notice. There is an 8-ticket limit per order. Cast subject to change. Not all seats are discounted. Blackout dates may apply.
Average User Rating
4.7 / 5
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Fabulous play with a powerful message. The writting was outstanding. Excellent mix of humor and drama. Rob Nagle was expertly cast with the perfect southern accent to make you believe he was a North Carolina politician. The play struck the right note. I highly recommend this play for anyone who enjoys theater with a powerful purpose.
I cannot say enough good things about Church and State! I am the perfect audience for this play. I love live theater. I love comedy. I am passionate about gun safety. But all of this wouldn't matter, if the play wasn't exceptional. The writing is soooo good! I also love the way the play is structured. The acting is so rich and real. I know it is cliché, but I did laugh (a lot) and cry. One of the many things that I love about this play is that neither side of the gun safety issue is vilified. All characters are layered and likeable. Please do yourself a favor and see this moving, powerful and FUNNY play.
Enjoyed the show but it was so not what my friends and I expected. We were looking for something light. It's a serious topic, with funny dialogue. Given the proximity of the theater to Newtown, CT, a heads up on the subject matter may be in order. Also, some advice from a front row observer: Mrs. Whitmore might want to consider longer skirts.