By Edward Kliszus
The set is lit, revealing a small chemistry lab, bookcases, house living spaces, and a park bench. Representing seemingly disparate contexts in the same space, the set’s variety provided effective, seamless transitions in an intimate stage for the incipient exegesis and belief systems about to predominate tonight’s repartee.
The play is a sensitively portrayed examination of sometimes antipodal beliefs as characterized by Dr. Morgan (Robert S. Gregory), Nobel prize-winning medical researcher, and Pastor Wilmont (Joel Shaw), father of Dr. Morgan’s gifted and brilliant lab assistant, Bret Wilmont (Tom Koch). As the savant young scientist struggles with his father’s sanctimonious, strict application of biblical principles as he interprets them, Bret is parched with curiosity as he queries the accomplished, erudite, and kindly Dr. Morgan about his beliefs, spirituality, and religious systems.
Tensions abound as the story evolves. As Bret’s association with and regard for Dr. Morgan grows, he appears to question his father’s strict religious beliefs and how a career as a medical researcher vs. a medical doctor may conflict with godly purposes. This, in turn, evokes friction with his girlfriend Martha Grange (Alyssa Palmigiano), about their future as a married couple with god-fearing children. Dr. Signa (Maura Moreau), a professor at the local seminary, meets regularly with Bret to monitor his religiosity. She surreptitiously reports to Pastor Wilmont her growing concerns. We also glimpse Scott (Blake McAlister) secretly meeting Bret’s girlfriend, Martha to earn her romantic regard.
It is a treat to hear Dr. Morgan eloquently articulate his keen insights into the search for the purpose of life, the human psyche, and perhaps even the ecclesiastical soul, as Pastor Wilmont might argue. We join them in our own attempts to reconcile the seemingly incongruent belief systems of science and religion, searching perhaps for the perfectly balanced Yin and Yang, and come to desire more than the frequently repeated phrase “whatever works for you,” akin to the similarly patronizing “agree to disagree” aphorism. Besides, Dr. Morgan and Bret possess better vocabulary than the angry Pastor Wilmont as they explicate ideas with syllogisms, vouchsafed commentary, concepts like transmogrification, and sensitivity to the ineffable sadness of a loved one’s untimely death. The Pastor coined, to his credit, “scientific iniquity.”
The story provokes our participation in contextual thought and introspection. One cannot help but examine their own experiences with religion, its subjective demands for blind faith and belief in God and the supernatural, how many are taught to suffer in the living world because of natural sin, and how we may have come to view science and its widely accepted, objective views of the world and life that conflict with some religions. Perhaps one ruminates on Charles Darwin’s theories about evolution and their impact on religious dogma, how one views biblical accounts of making wine out of water, Lazarus and Christ rising from the dead, Christ and Satan, good and evil, or how to ensure entry into Heaven vs. Hell. Are people who do not attend church as kind, spiritual, generous, caring, and loyal as those who do? How many have died in the name of religion? What about the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, or the causes of the Reformation? Is rock n’ roll sinful?
The debate between a strict interpretation of religious dogma or extant texts vs. pure science reveals a means of reconciliation demonstrated by Dr. Morgan’s endearing wife, Anne (Robin May). Perhaps she is the unsung hero of this piece as she finds a way to survive the death and loss of a loved one. Interestingly, Pastor Wilmont’s wife Patricia (Ellen Revesz) is caring, sympathetic, and infinitely more supportive of her son than the Pastor.
For religious reasons, it’s disturbing to discover that Pastor Wilmont refused his other then-teenaged son medical treatment for appendicitis, resulting in his death, a glaring tant pis. This early revelation, amplified by Bret’s heartbreaking dozing nightmare, certainly doubts the Pastor’s credibility and focuses sharply on religious zealots who ignore medicine and science to disturbing, fatal limits. It also seems absurd in the depicted context that Bret doesn’t drink alcohol because of his religious upbringing. After all, as the learned Dr. Morgan convincingly explains, drinking alcohol in moderation can be healthy. When Bret meets Dr. Morgan’s lovely, exciting, and urbane daughter, Megan Morgan (Madison Finney), a growing mutual attraction complicates Bret’s contemplations and attempts to reconcile science while remaining devout.
The play is personal, touching, and thought-provoking. It’s all too human and plays on the side of hope, generosity, caring, and honoring the lives we possess. The audience gently and audibly reacted to many moments created by the players. You’ll have to experience it to know how it all works out, but perhaps, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (from the book of John 14:1-3)
Wonderful set, lighting, and sound. Kudos to Playwright Tom Attea, incidental music by Arthur Abrams, Director/Set Designer Mark Marcante, Assistant Director Danielle Hauser, Stage Manager Natasha Velez, Light Designer Alexander Bartenieff, Prop designer Lytza Colón, Sound Design/Light Roy Chang, and Dream Sequence Film by Joshua Avalos.
Runtime: Two hours, including a 10-minute intermission.
155 1st Ave., New York, NY 10003
For tickets, click here or type https://ci.ovationtix.com/35441/production/1111119.