‘The Savannah Disputation’ at Reston Community Players by Mike Spain

FOUR STARS
To continue their season of strong female characters, Reston Community Players (RCP) presents The Savannah Disputation. 

Margaret (Gayle Grimes) examining a religious pamphlet given to her by the Evangelical Melissa (Lori Brooks). Phot courtesy of Reston Community Players.

Margaret (Gayle Grimes) examining a religious pamphlet given to her by the Evangelical Melissa (Lori Brooks). Photo courtesy of Reston Community Players.

What happens when two Roman Catholic sisters open the door and let a Bible-thumping Pentecostal missionary enter their home with her crazy beliefs of eternal damnation and shoves her brochures into their lives? Well without giving away all the craziness and jokes, Reston Community Players’ production of The Savannah Disputation at the Reston Community Center provides buckets of laughs. Although some serious matters are tackled in Evan Smith’s play, it’s like The Golden Girls meets Mama’s Family (remember the Carol Burnett Show?), but with more ‘rougher’ edges.

What makes RCP’s production an entertaining evening is the fine direction by Bernie Cohen and work of his talented cast: the temperamental and ‘off-balanced’ Mary (Barbara Wilson), [who doesn’t like visitors, is quick to threaten to call the police, who isn’t happy at church, and whose friends are few], the tough, frustrated, yet insecure and embarrassed Margaret (Gayle Nichols-Grimes), the perky – yet lonely – door-to-door religious ‘converting’ saleswoman Melissa (Lori Brooks) – who doesn’t particularly like their Catholic doctrine, and the melancholy, smart, and philosophical Father Murphy (Mark Yeager). They all play off each other well and deliver ‘divine’ performances, and accomplish the unthinkable – their performances make these characters (who have lots of skeletons in their closets) less ‘cartoonish’ than they could have become, and the cast gives these characters ‘some’ dignity.

Mary (Barbara Wilson) and Margaret (Gayle Grimes) recite the Catholic "Profession of Faith" before Father Murphy (Mark Yaeger). Photo courtesy of Reston Community Players.

Mary (Barbara Wilson) and Margaret (Gayle Grimes) recite the Catholic “Profession of Faith” before Father Murphy (Mark Yaeger). Photo courtesy of Reston Community Players.

The set immediately caught my eye when I took my seat. Set Designer Maggie Modig creates a beautiful contemporary home in Savannah, Georgia. It is complete with a dinning room and living room, with several shelves and doors which the cast utilizes during the play. Jon Roberts’ Sound Design is excellent during the production as well. I really enjoyed the humorous pre-performance ‘phone message announcements (the one about God forgiving you but not Copyright Lawyers set me in the mood for what was about to happen on the stage).

RCP’s The Savannah Disputation is an entertaining evening in the theatre offering plenty of laughs, filled with fine performances, and religious debate. God help you if you miss it!

Running time: Approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission. The first intermission comes quickly – only 30 minutes into the performance.

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The Savannah Disputation plays through March 24, 2012 at CenterStage, at The Reston Community Center – 2310 Colts Neck Road, in Reston, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 476-4500, or purchase them online.

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