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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

This Beautiful City

Also see Susan's review of The Imaginary Invalid

This Beautiful City
(l-r) Stephen Plunkett, Brad Heberlee and Emily Ackerman
The Studio Theatre in Washington has welcomed The Civilians, an award-winning troupe from New York City, to present the world premiere of its newest work, This Beautiful City. It's an engaging work of documentary theater in the tradition of such works as The Laramie Project and columbinus, using the actual words of residents of Colorado Springs, Colorado—home of numerous conservative Christian organizations, and called by some "the Vatican of the evangelical right."

Director Steven Cosson wrote the script with Jim Lewis, and six amazingly versatile members of the company—Emily Ackerman, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Aysan Celik, Matthew Dellapina, Brad Heberlee, and Stephen Plunkett—bring life to a cross-section of people and church congregations. By coincidence, the sex and drug scandal surrounding Ted Haggard, founder of the New Life mega-church in Colorado Springs, exploded during The Civilians' visit to the city, and so the incident became a major focus of the finished work.

Authors Cosson and Lewis allow the speakers' words to stand on their own, without undue editorializing. The overall theme is the varying definitions of freedom: does it mean doing whatever one wants, or behaving in accordance with the will of God? The time is before and after the 2006 elections, with two conflicting issues on the Colorado state ballot, an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman (it passed) and a referendum that would grant the same legal protections and responsibilities to domestic partnerships as to married couples (it was defeated).

The audience gets inside the evangelical subculture with visits to "spiritual warfare" sessions and high-powered youth services designed to recruit the next generation of fervent believers. The individual interviews range from activists supporting the domestic partnership measure and a Jewish man irate over Christian proselytizing at the Air Force Academy (also in Colorado Springs) to a member of an African-American Baptist church dealing uncomfortably with the more liberal social attitudes of her pastor.

Studio Theatre
This Beautiful City
June 11th July 6th
Written by Steven Cosson and Jim Lewis
Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman
The Company: Emily Ackerman, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Aysan Celik, Matthew Dellapina, Brad Heberlee, Stephen Plunkett
Directed by Steven Cosson
Commissioned and developed by The Civilians
Metheny Theatre at The Studio Theatre, 1333 P St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-332-3300 or www.studiotheatre.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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