note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Beverly Creasey
SACRED HEARTS is a departure for the Zeitgeist folks, who have carved out a place on the Boston theater scene by tackling edgy, controversial material. SACRED HEARTS is a rather long, conventional “Catholic” play about faith and the faithful. (Personally I prefer my religious fare to be fashioned by wiseacres like Christopher Durang. Who can forget Sister Mary Ignatius’ caustic explanation of prayer: “God always answers your prayers…but sometimes the answer is NO.”)
The Zeitgeist production has two veteran actors who are a pleasure to observe. Renee Miller plays the village’s inveterate gossip and Ed Peed is the Father Berrigan style priest who’s been exiled to the wilds as punishment for his activist leanings. The best scene in the play has Miller chiding the prelate for looking down upon his provincial, Bingo-loving parishioners. Just watching Peed absorb the reprimand---listening with compassion to Miller’s heartfelt distress---is a joy. The rest of the play, alas, is pretty static and predictable. But I did learn two valuable lessons from SACRED HEARTS: Always lock your front door and never, never, under any circumstances, talk to the press.
Great actors are like great athletes. Their fluid motion and fierce concentration make what they do look so natural and so easy that we forget about the discipline beneath the performance. Here are a few cases in point.
Jacqui Parker, who produces the African American Theatre Festival, managed to find time (How does she do it?) to portray Endesha Ida Mae Holland (along with the talented Valerie Lee and Nicole Parker) in the uplifting drama, FROM THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA , also playing at the BCA (through Feb 17),
The ensemble piece is a treat for actors because they get to portray dozens of roles in one evening. FROM THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA tells the story of a powerful woman’s rise from rape, poverty and degradation to triumph, working in the Civil Rights movement and going on to college, right up to and including a PhD. The delight for audiences comes from witnessing Parker’s extraordinary performance. Before our eyes she morphs into a lecherous old man, a stumbling drunk or a fresh faced teenager. Parker is the real McCoy.
Another feast, this one for the ears and the soul, comes from Frank Shefton’s sound design for the play. The Delta spawned blues legends like Mississipi John Hurt, Memphis Slim, Slim Harpo and a certain Mr. Morgenfield who borrowed his name from the muddy river. Shefton dips into the rich waters for gorgeous songs to punctuate each scene. If you aren’t moved by Pop Staples’ “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” then you haven’t got a heart.