BWW Review: The Rep's Excellent Production of THE FALL OF HEAVEN
Author and playwright Walter Mosley has a real knack for writing hard-boiled fiction, as evidenced by his extensive, best-selling body of work, and his first foray writing for the theatre, The Fall of Heaven, is a stunning success. Mosley deftly reworks "The Tempest Tales" into an incendiary piece of theatre that's both enthralling and engaging, drawing in the audience and never letting them go. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is currently presenting this exciting new play in a production that's smartly conceived and executed, with excellent performances all around.
When Tempest Landry is gunned down by police, who mistake him for a criminal who's similarly dressed, he finds himself facing judgment at the gates of heaven. Though sentenced to spend his time in hell for acts he committed while alive, Tempest rejects that option and is given an opportunity to return to earth where he's supposed to reflect on his past misdeeds. The angel Joshua is sent back as well to guide and help Tempest with his progress in understanding his situation. However, Tempest comes under the influence of one Basil Bob (say it aloud to get the jokey reference), and Joshua begins to succumb to earthly delights, falling in love with Branwyn Weeks, a good-hearted woman that Tempest himself is romantically attached to. With heaven and hell hanging in the balance, it's up to Tempest to decide whether or not to accept his sentence.
Bryan Terrell Clark is ingratiating as Tempest, and he makes this sinner appealing and affable, despite a myriad of transgressions. Even better is Corey Allen as Joshua Angel, who's determined to help Tempest see the light, even as his own circumstance begins to change when Branwyn becomes pregnant by him. As the representative of pure evil, Jeffrey C. Hawkins is a decidedly sinister presence as Basil Bob. It's pure pleasure watching these three characters spar as they debate the options open to Tempest, as well as the devastating results that might occur, depending on the decision he makes.
Kenya Brome is sweet as Branwyn, and her undeniable love for Joshua has you rooting for an outcome that won't leave her and their baby at loose ends. Rachel Leslie is also solid as Alfreda, a woman that Tempest kept on the side when he was still alive, and who willingly welcomes him into her bed in his current incarnation. Jerome Lowe and Borris York fill out the supporting cast in fine fashion.
Seth Gordon's direction is top notch, and he keeps the action moving at a fairly fast pace without sacrificing any clarity. Most importantly, his cast is focused and assured throughout. He's aided in his efforts by Robert Mark Morgan's terrific, changeable set that conjures up the various locations with ease, giving this urban story the right look and feel. Michael Lincoln's lighting illuminates the action and sets the mood, while Rusty Wandall's sound design utilizes a number of kitschy, but cool songs from the 70's as a soundtrack. Myrna Colley-Lee provides the costuming, all of which are nice fits for the characters.
The Fall of Heaven's epic battle between good and evil makes for an exceptional show, and the Rep's current production had me completely mesmerized throughout. The Fall of Heaven continues onstage at the Loretto-Hilton through January 30, 2011.