note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
FISH IN A BARREL By Beverly Creasey SpeakEasy Stage’s THE SAVANNAH DISPUTATION is a delightful showcase for two comic actresses (Paula Plum and Nancy Carroll) to run roughshod over everyone else in the play. When a fundamentalist recruiter (Carolyn Charpie) appears on their doorstep, bent on converting the two Catholic sisters, all hell breaks loose. As long as Carroll is making mincemeat of the missionary — and as long as Plum is trying to soften the blows, the comedy delivers.
When it digresses into a real disputation of Bible quotations (with Timothy Crowe contributing the church perspective), it wanes. Playwright Evan Smith introduces enough red herrings (a cancer scare?, a priestly indiscretion?) to feed the multitudes and the theology he scatters here and there is neither fish nor fowl. It doesn’t advance the action and it doesn’t make THE SAVANNAH DISPUTATION a serious play.
Director Paul Daigneault sends Charpie so far over the top that no one could tolerate her, even members, I suspect, of her own congregation. We glean as much from her cell phone calls, which curiously never go anywhere dramatically. Had she been less caustic, the Biblical shootout center stage might have been a fairer (and more compelling) fight. As Daigneault choreographs it, she’s so maniacally unpleasant that the Catholic Church position seems positively sane by contrast.
Eric Levenson’s overstuffed, crucifix festooned bungalow is the perfect hothouse setting for these two quirky dowdies (thanks to Gail Astrid Buckley’s spot-on duds) and Andrew Duncan Will’s brand of “religious” music, from Norman Greenbaum to The Stones, is downright hilarious.