Playwright: Caitlin Montanye Parrish
At: Hypatia Theatre Company at Prop Thtr, 3504 N. Elston Ave.
Phone: ( 773 ) 857-7173; $10
Runs through: August 14
Funerals tend to bring out the skeletons in family closets, especially when the deceased was a churchgoing hypocrite who abused his motherless children right up to the night he jumped—or was pushed—to his death. On the burial day, daughter Dolores—'Lo' to her intimates—seeks solace in surfboarding, while her younger brother Marcus struggles to reconcile his personal feelings with the prospect of his sire burning in hell for all eternity. Counsel and companionship are provided by an oddly-chosen pair of their schoolmates—marijuana-puffing gay-boy Foster and self-mutilating goth shutterbug Ada. But through a crucial 24 hours of spiritual anguish over issues of suicide and the afterlife, they stay the course with no sign of abandoning one another.
Playwright Caitlin Montanye Parrish doesn't abandon them, either. All four troubled adolescents have been raised in the Southern Baptist faith, to varying degrees of piety ranging from flat-out rejection to unswerving acceptance, but while Parrish's personae may mock each other's beliefs, the author refuses to do so. If any image dominates the dramatic action in this world premiere production, it is that of the iron-laced soil—geologically designated 'Red Georgia Clay'—giving the beaches their bloody hue.
The characters repeatedly transgress the fourth wall to deliver expository orientation to natural presences—the sultry tropical climate, fierce and sudden storms—or lyrical soliloquies to private deities. One might expect this amalgamation of narrative styles to become confusing ( one or two of the later lyrical passages could be excised without being missed ) , but under the direction of Erica L. Weiss, intensely-focused performances from Sara Anderson and Gabe Levinson as the derelict waifs, along with Hannah Phelps and Michael Sullivan as their unlikely comforters, integrate the disparate elements into a coherent parable of true compassion and humanity.
There's more to the Florida coast than luxurious resorts and more to Christian cosmology than facile platitudes. Never do the artists of the Hypatia Theatre Company permit cheap editorializing or hackneyed polemics to upstage conflicts bred of universal injustice. They take salvation, corporeal and spiritual, seriously. And by the time the sun rises over the ocean to dissolve our pilgrims' dark night of the soul, so do we.