BWW Reviews: THE REVELATION OF BOBBY PRITCHARD Engages, Unsettles, Amuses Audience
Please for the love of all you hold dear, ignore the press release blurb for Rich Espy's 10-year project, THE REVELATION OF BOBBY PRITCHARD. The release makes the show sound like a Colossal Drag, as if it's going to be about Heavy Stuff, which surely will Take Itself Too Seriously. It's not, it is, and it doesn't.
(Pictured in top photograph: Heather Peacock and Dave LaSalle.)
Here's my alternative blurb: Rich Espy's THE REVELATION OF BOBBY PRITCHARD is a fine example of non-linear storytelling with personable, quirky characters who explore traditional values and non-traditional relationships with snappy dialogue, brisk action, shifting timelines and a story that should touch the heart of anyone who's ever loved anyone. Join Marta, who, with her family, dances with ghosts of her past, striving for a brighter present.
Now, doesn't that sound like a show you'd like to see? And you should. It is rare that I, as a reviewer, see a show I'd like to see again. BOBBY PRITCHARD is such a rarity and makes the cut.
(Pictured in center photograph, L to R: Julie Herber and Susan Porter)
Kudos to set designer Mollie Singer whose gothic-windowed abstract soaring pillar-esque constructions suggest a church, a weathered barn, the great outdoors and many other things. The set is framed like a jewel by Theater Project's black boxy space, and the audience is invited into chairs on the floor, which strengthens the suggestion of a chapel. Yes! Audience becomes part of the set. It could be clunky and awkward, but absolutely isn't. Despite rapid scene shifts, onstage costume changes (each performer portrays at least two characters) and actors moving furniture, the fourth wall is firmly in place and though they're close enough to accidentally spit on, the audience members are quite safe from being put on the spot.
Travis Levasseur does a wonderful job creating many environments using layered projections and a complex nuanced soundscape. This very deep story, told non-sequentially, could have become quickly muddled, but the crisp alterations of environment (helped by Chris Flint's deft lighting changes) keep us well aware of where and when we are.
The show is self-consciously theatrical, bashfully political and carries an underlying outrage towards subversive agenda-based misappropriation. There is a lot of singing in it, some of it quite good. Whether the many hymns we hear are actual traditional melodies or compositions of Jonathan Jensen and Abram Foster remains a mystery to me, a devout non-hymnist. What is most surprising is the amount of humor embedded in this show. It is by no means all misery and message.
Director Steven Satta has done an excellent job casting- all six of his players do an exceptional job at each character they portray. Susan Porter as Cyn has great timing and a dry humor that resonates. Sarah Lynn Taylor is challenged with the alternating portrayal of an unsympathetic character and a beloved one with the flick of a shawl and does a smooth, subtle job of it. Every character is believable, and you've probably met someone just like each of them somewhere.
Recurring moments, lines and sentiments reflect the always/never attitude most of us face in one or another aspect of life, and the story gradually works its way from the opening moment back to the opening moment, unearthing uncomfortable truths and deep mysteries along the way. Themes of hatred, fear, apprehension, faith, fitting in, freedom, guilt, selfhood, loyalty, shame and family bonds swirl together in a show that is part rebellion, part celebration, part regret and all human.
THE REVELATION OF BOBBY PRITCHARD plays at Theatre Project
Sunday Mar 22 7:00 pm
Wednesday Mar 25 8:00 pm
Thursday Mar 26 8:00 pm
Friday Mar 27 8:00 pm
Saturday Mar 28 8:00 pm
For for tickets or more information, see http://www.theatreproject.org/Shows/TheRevelationOfBobbyPritchard/ or phone the Box Office: 410-752-8558
Baltimore Theatre Project
45 West Preston Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Photo credit: Zachary Z. Handler