BWW Review: THE BOOK OF MAGGIE Slays at Stages Repertory
Seán Patrick Judge, Melissa Molano, Luis Galindo and Nick Farco in Stages Repertory Theatre's World Premiere production of THE BOOK OF MAGGIE. Photo by Bruce Bennett.
Stages Repertory Theatre presents the world premiere of this powerful comedy which is the debut of Houston writer Brendan Bourque-Sheil. In THE BOOK OF MAGGIE, Judas Iscariot and Pontius Pilate are offered a chance into heaven by Saint Peter. In order to get into heaven, they each must teach a suicidal woman the value of life. The show is directed by Josh Morrison and runs through February 14, 2016.
THE BOOK OF MAGGIE is one of the most refreshing original works that has come out of Houston in some time. This play has guts. It pushes the envelope of what theatre can be in Houston, and I loved it. The play has the modern absurdity and profanity reminiscent of the work of Matt Stone, Trey Parker or Kevin Smith, while maintaining traditional storytelling elements. The characters are rich with quirks and the story is layered with motifs that keep the audience interested. The high production quality by Stages Repertory Theatre gives this original script the support it deserves to thrive on stage.
THE BOOK OF MAGGIE is Houstonian Brendan Bourque-Sheil's first play, and hopefully, it won't be his last. Bourque-Sheil began working with Stages as part of the Young Actors Conservatory program at the age of 15 in 2004. After graduating from Texas State University, he sent his play to Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin for feedback, but instead got an offer to have his play read, developed, and produced.
The play features an all-star cast with Nick Farco, Luis Galindo, Seán Patrick Judge, Courtney Lomelo, and Melissa Molano. Seán Patrick Judge is wonderful as Pontius Pilate, the infamous Roman fifth prefect of Judea who sends Jesus to his death. He has a knack for gardening, tries to do his job by the book, and happens to be tasked with saving a "near-deather", Joan (Courtney Lomelo). When Pilate finds out he isn't being offered a way into heaven for his deed, like Judas Iscariot (Galindo) is, he sets out to find out why. Luis Galindo is hilarious as Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. In THE BOOK OF MAGGIE, however, Judas is a drunk apathetic and selfish dude. He's looking for a change, looking for a way to redeem himself, and has lost all hope. But then he gets his lucky break. Judas receives news from Saint Peter that he may get a chance to get into heaven if he can prevent Maggie from killing herself back on earth. Nick Farco plays the stressed out tight-ass Saint Peter. I just got done seeing Farco play more serious characters in SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS at Stark Naked Theatre and THE OTHER PLACE at the Alley Theatre. Here, we get to see Farco execute a comedic role with the same skill he brought to his other roles, and he kills it. St. Peter's layered quirks like his passion for writing depressing sci-fi, make his nerdy and haughty demeanor funnier. Courtney Lomelo plays Joan, a "near-deather" who shows Pilate that things are not always as they seem, and in subtler ways shows him how to not take himself so seriously. Lomelo does a fine job portraying this free-spirited drinking soul. Melissa Molano plays Maggie, a young woman who has taken countless liquor bottles, drugs, and a loaded pistol onto a seemingly deserted beach to take her own life. Molano is impressive and balances a selfish depressed mess and a funny, sarcastic, and hopeful girl next door.
The set was simple but thorough with a sandy beach, trees with branches and leaves that crawl across ceilings, and rocks that serve as seating areas. They utilized one of the corners of the space as Pilate's garden and another as the pearly gates of heaven. Fog filled the heavenly space and the gates opened and closed on their own. In front of the pearly gates was Peter's desk, his sci-fi manuscript, and a telephone. The lighting was generally bright, and the design for specific scenes aligned with the narrative, and supported comedic moments. This show was a real treat. If you have a high tolerance for profanity, drug use, and adult humor, and if you love fun storytelling, then you won't want to miss this show.
THE BOOK OF MAGGIE
by Brendan Bourque-Sheil
January 20, 2016 - February 14, 2016
Directed by Josh Morrison
Starring: Nick Farco, Luis Galindo, Seán Patrick Judge, Courtney Lomelo, Melissa Molano
Properties Designer: Jodi Bobrovsky
Lighting Designer: Devlin Browning
Scenic Designer: Brad Kanouse
Associate Scenic Designer: Michael Mullins
Costume Designer: Claremarie Verheyen
Production Stage Manager: Ashley Ginn