Last night, I came as close as I'm ever likely to get to an evangelical sermon, or a televangelist, for that matter. bakerybard was kind enough to share one of the free tickets she earned through her volunteer work with CanStage, so we went to Fire, which is a very powerful and moving production about two brothers who take very different paths -- the one brother, Cale Blackwell (Ted Dykstra), becoming a rock and roll sensation and the other, Herchel Blackwell (Rick Roberts), choosing to follow in his father's footsteps and become an evangelical minister. The playwrights, Paul Ledoux and David Young, were inspired by real-life cousins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, when they wrote their play, though Fire is much more than just a semi-biographical look at these controversial figures. It addresses the incredible power religion can have both inside and outside the church and the way it can be manipulated and distorted by evil people. I heard at least a couple of gasps in the audience during one speech by Truman King (John Wright), as it sounded frighteningly like the kind of garbage spouted by certain Bush supporters.
bakerybard was originally attracted to Fire because she had enjoyed Ted Dykstra's performance in Kenneth Welsh's Stand-up Shakespeare. She had also seen him in 2 Pianos, 4 Hands and thought he was brilliant. I'm glad to say that he didn't disappoint in his role as Cale Blackwell. He gave phenomenal performances on the piano, though bakerybard and I both agreed that his strongest moment came when he wasn't channelling Jerry Lee Lewis but singing "Lost Out in Deep Water". In fact, bakerybard said that she would go to see Fire again for that song alone. Well, that and his heart-breaking repentance scene. While I found Ted Dykstra's performance mesmerizing, my eyes kept wandering to Rick Roberts whenever he was on the stage. I'm obviously incredibly dense because I didn't realize that it was the same actor who played D'Arby in Traders until I was studying the theatre programme again this morning! I thought he seemed familiar! *g* Anyway, I was absolutely fascinated by his transformation from a rather shy and timid young man to a fiery, bible-thumping televangelist. In the scene before the intermission, they had Herchel delivering a sermon and Cale playing on the piano, and it was amazing how similar the performances were. At one point, Herchel looks like he's channelling Elvis as he swings his microphone around and practically dances in his evangelical fervour. If you couldn’t hear the sermon he was delivering, you might think he was singing a rock and roll song as well.
Well, any review of this play wouldn't be complete without mentioning Nicole Underhay, the wonderful actress who played Molly King. She transformed from a rather naïve thirteen-year-old (as her character was based on Jerry Lee Lewis' child bride) to a mother and wife in her thirties. While costumes played a big role in the transformation, a lot of it came from the actress herself, in the way she spoke and carried herself. There was this innocent, joyful light in her eyes at the beginning of the play when she described her love of Jesus, but the light disappeared when she realized that her work as a gospel singer and wife of a televangelist was not serving God's will but lining the pockets of corrupt politicians. While I was teary-eyed during Cale's repentance scene, it was Molly's choked up rendition of "Bright Morning Stars" at the end that really got to me. I actually found it hard to speak for a couple of minutes after the curtain went done and stumbled out of the theatre in kind of a daze.
Tonight, the only fire I'm going to be seeing (I hope) will come from candlelight. While I often turn off the lights in my apartment if I'm home on Saturday night, I'm going to make an extra-special effort for Earth Hour and turn off everything, even -- *gulp* -- my computer. I'll just spend the hour between 8 and 9 reading by the light of the DORCY L.E.D. Dynamo flashlight my dad gave me. My goal is to finish reading the last novel in the H. Rider Haggard omnibus that I borrowed from jackycomelately. I'm so sick of H. Rider Haggard, it's not funny. My advice to anyone reading the collective works of Haggard is to take long breaks between King Solomon's Mines, She, and Allan Quatermain, or your sanity is likely to suffer. As it is, Haggard's views on Africa and anyone who isn't a British white male has really started to grate on my nerves. This particular passage from Allan Quatermain really pissed me off when I read it a couple of days ago:
"In fact, he was in a fair way to become her tool -- and no more dreadful fate can befall a man than to become the tool of an unscrupulous woman, or indeed of any woman."
No, Mr. Haggard, I think you'll find that it isn't women who are to blame, but your stupid, weak protagonists, who don't think with their brains, but their -- Anywaaaay, I'll be very happy to see the last of H. Rider Haggard. I plan to read Laurie R. King's A Grave Talent next. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Art of Detection last year and have been meaning to read the other Kate Martinelli books for ages. Thankfully, I was able to pick up three of them in a used bookstore that jackycomelately and I were happily exploring one Saturday night. After H. Rider Haggard, a lesbian detective is going to be extremely refreshing!