Langhorne Players is known for producing dynamic plays that reach outside the box of typical community theater selections. This month’s production of 100 SAINTS YOU SHOULD KNOW is no different. I also witnessed a new first in community theater hospitality that added even more to the Langhorne Players appeal: Producer, JoAnne Pinto offered blankets to air-condition-chilled audience members before the show. Just one more reason to love LP.
In the play, we’re introduced to a few very different families. While the family dynamics of the characters may be different, we see how difficult it is for each pair to talk to one another and work out their differences, but we also see that they’re all longing for the same thing: “a surge of the heart, a cry of recognition, and love.”
First, we meet Theresa (Tami Feist) and her sixteen-year-old daughter Abby (Chelsea Klevan). When the teenage brattiness and whining starts, it may seem like a typical mother/daughter relationship, but when it escalates into cursing and profound parental disrespect, you can tell there’s some deep rooted drama fueling the fire. You can also tell these two actresses worked on character development, since their rise and fall of emotions was evident throughout the play. Feist played it cool while being berated by her on-stage daughter, but there was no lack of emotions during both the heated and heartfelt moments of their scenes. In fact, Feist gave such a true-to-life performance at times, that I had that feeling of eavesdropping on a real and personal conversation. This doesn’t happen often. It’s also rare to get the urge to shake some sense into one of the characters, but when Klevan voiced her character’s opinions of her on-stage mother in the utmost unladylike manner, the urge was there. A bigger surprise was the change in heart as Klevan’s character evolved throughout the play. With this as her Langhorne Players debut, I’m sure I’ll see her grace the LP stage again in the future.
When Matthew (Todd Gregoire), a priest “on vacation,” returns to his childhood home and mother Colleen (Carole Mancini), we see what seems like a more amicable mother/son relationship as the two play Scrabble and Colleen entertains with copious amounts of food. Soon we see how underlying circumstances transforms this relationship from jovial to pitiful to obstinate. Gregoire gave a strong performance, especially in the more poetic pieces of the play. His emotions were so raw and, literally, stripped down as he confessed his vulnerabilities to the audience. While Mancini’s character refused to show vulnerability, she was still able to exude the necessary emotions that made her believable and distinguishable.
Garrett (Cody Ayrer), the grocer’s son, also added his teenage angst to the fray, and even though we never meet his parents, their presence is alive in Garrett’s worries. As another LP newbie, Ayrers proves he can hold his own in a dramatic play that wouldn’t make the high school stage.
The minimal set fit the feel of the play. The cast either sat on hard wooden folding chairs or the floor, adding to the harsh realities that arose throughout the performance. The bleak, but well designed, set provided sharp contrast to some of the more soft, heartfelt moments of the play, which actually enhanced these scenes with feelings of hope.
Yet again, Langhorne Players set itself apart by presenting a unique, stimulating play that dared to explore certain topics that many other plays avoid, such as religion and sexuality. Even though, at times, it felt like some of the dialogue became preachy when discussing these topics, this was more of a script issue than a poor acting choice. Each of the actors successfully portrayed a complicated character with their own lessons to learn, and in doing so, taught the audience a few life lessons as well.
100 SAINTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
by Kate Fodor
Directed by Jack Bathke
August 17-September 1, 2012
Langhorne Players at Tyler State Park
Newtown-Richboro Rd. (Rt. 332)