Also see Nancy's review of In the Heights
Tired of the disciplined values that have become cultural norms in an imagined (but strangely familiar) world, God hires a salesman (Benjamin Evett) to peddle high-priced get-out-of-jail-free indulgences for any number of mortal sins. God wants to encourage a resurgence of free will among the people. Many seem eager for the chance to break free from faith-based mores, as long as they can preserve the purity of their souls for the ultimate Judgment Day.
Woven within this narrative, an ordinary engineer (Neil A. Casey) and the King (Joel Colodner) agree to trade placesa lA The Prince and the Pauperto see if their lives are as similar as they imagine. Saddled with his gay Prince son (Ed Hoopman), the Prince's love that knows no name (Tony Larkin), and some meddlesome court advisors (Stephen Barkhimer and Leigh Barrett), the incognito engineer experiences complications ruling the kingdom. Meanwhile, God's salesman faces some doubt about his boss's decisions. The true King, downgraded to commoner, encounters a passionless wife and a daughter with low math grades.
Even with over 20 plays to his credit, playwright Craddock's first act needs more than a tweak or two. It's a long, exposition-laden road toward intermission. Fortunately, a delightfully over-the-top second act almost makes us forget the initial plodding through a fantasy world teeming with religion, fairy-tales, malicious intent and a contemporary watering hole (where the bartender knows your name, at least).
Material aside, a fine ensemble from Boston and beyond brings collective comedic talent that outpaces a sluggish first act to deliver some well-earned laughs for an audience eager to enjoy the work. The performers' rapid-fire delivery of the final scenes is especially hysterical. It's smart that Warner and her team have cast local favorites to draw in audiences for a newer work.
Though Indulgences is not an exceptional piece of theater, it's clear that the playwright has talent that he will continue to develop. New Rep's Warner, who also directs this production, also deserves time to develop her groove with the local actors, designers, crew, staffand her new audience. We must be patient and not expect immediate perfection. There is enough oomph in Warner's production to encourage us all to stay the course with New Rep.
Indulgences runs through February 7 at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, Charles Mosesian Theater, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown. For tickets and information, visit the box office, call 617-923-8487, or purchase online at www.newrep.org.
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