by Lorie Lewis Ham
Check out a video interview with show director J. Daniel Herring at the end of this review.
If you’re looking for an edgy, thought provoking and yet entertaining night at the theatre, be sure and go see Baptized To The Bone presented by The New Ensemble Theater Group in Fresno. If you’re easily offended–don’t go–but then you’ll end up missing an excellent show.
Baptized To The Bone features a preacher named Henry, played by David Marinovich and his unhappy wife Gladys played by Hayley Galbraith. Henry has left his good paying job at the mill to answer the call of God to be a preacher. He is going to seminary and making a tiny bit from preaching part time at a local church, while his wife has to work at a horrible job to pay the bills. Gladys is unhappy, wants her old life back, and desperately wants a baby. Henry seems to really only care about his calling.
Enter Ottis, played by Matthew Schiltz, a young man with dreams of moving to New York to write, direct and act in theatre. Ottis is undeniably handsome and just the kind of distraction Gladys needs to survive her miserable life. And he is eager to please, especially when she keeps giving him money to live on and to hopefully get him to New York. Ottis talks up New York to her and tells her that she should go with him. This young man ends up disrupting their lives in ways no one would have expected, as they all struggle with their beliefs and admitting who they really are. As we watch the story unfold, we begin wonder if Ottis is simply a con man after their money, or is there much more going on here.
This story is filled with familiar hymns for those of us who grew up in church, a little bit of preaching from Henry, and a struggle among them all between their faith, temptation, self-discovery and acceptance, and a longing to be loved. The ending was a total surprise to me and a perfect ending to this story. A simple set in a tiny theatre with a small cast of only three people, was all director J. Daniel Herring needed to present this touching play that makes you laugh, cry, gasp and think.
I had seen Hayley in [title of show] with StageWorks Fresno, which was a wonderfully fun play, but this role gave her a chance to really stretch herself. David did an excellent job of portraying the tortured soul afraid to be who he really was, and Matthew was incredible as the sad, beautiful boy stirring up all the trouble.
Be aware that this show has some strong language, some may be offended by the character’s struggles with faith and God though if we’re honest don’t we all have those, and sex definitely plays a strong role in the story. But I hope those who are offended by any of these can get past any misgivings they may have and come see this show anyway. It is powerful, funny and moving, and something not to be missed. It is however not appropriate for young children. My teenage son though enjoyed it very much.
Baptized To The Bone’s remaining performances are August 23, 24, 25, 31 and September 1 at 8 p.m. and August 25 and September 1 at 2 p.m. at the Broken Leg Stage in Fresno. More details on KRL’s local theatre event page and The New Ensemble website.
Interview with director J. Daniel Herring:
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