Sunday, June 24, 2012

Altarcations

a new play written and directed by STEVE JULIAN
presented at Actors Circle Theatre
a Hollywood Fringe Production

review by Phillip Kelly

The Catholic scandal over the past couple years has been one of the things that's really raised my ire. To take advantage of an innocent, when you're supposed to stand for something pure, and then to cover up something that detestable when you're supposed to protect the people who come to worship the same God you believe in...I become angry. Thinking about it as I write, that rage returns.

Altarcations, the new play by Steve Julian, does something unexpected. While it demonizes the acts themselves, it humanizes the people that commit them. Sometimes turning them into even greater monsters, but these characters are 3 dimensional people, not simply cyphers to make a point. They regret and feel guilt over the things they've done. This makes it that much more of a complex and intriguing show to watch.

Robert Keasler plays Father Bart who is a father figure to a young man, Tommy played by Drew Hellenthal, who wishes to become a man of the cloth. Tommy is staying with a woman, Rachel (Dylan Jones). In the midst of this Bishop Michael, Travis Michael Holder, comes to the Church in order to weed out the potentially bad seeds and train the heads of the Churches how to deal with and curb the unholy desires within themselves.

Much is alluded to before it's shown, and the curtain is ever so slowly parted, allowing us to uncover the secrets between each of the characters and the scars they carry. The discomfort is palpable and the end is chilling in ways I don't want to begin to ruin. Along the way, we're treated to some delectable performances and writing. Travis Michael Holder's drunken, sexual repartee leaves you feeling unclean and in awe at the same time. The three confession scenes between Dylan and the three characters are clever and so wonderfully performed by everyone in the cast. The psychological deconstruction is handled with confidence and balance by Julian and his performers.

Like most things in Fringe, at least the things I've seen and can imagine, it takes advantage of video projection to smartly allude to the wheres, but also during the show, as scene transitions occur, we are shown a video recording of an unnamed woman, articulately dismantling the Church and the cover up. It manages to keep the proceedings grounded in reality. The problem being, the video doesn't resolve itself, and simply disappears from the production as we near the end of the story. The score by Jen Schwartz and sound design by Jeff Gardner help create the well rounded world.

At times the acting and writing becomes a little melodramatic, but it's forgivable as these characters are dealing with with the fights of their lives.

If you get a chance while it's still at Fringe, check it out. Look for it to have a healthy life beyond.

Altarcations by Steve Julian
June 8 - 24, Fri. at 5pm, Sun at 4pm
Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood 90046
hollywoodfringe.org/projects/920
or follow the Playwright for updates on the production at stevejulian.com

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