I enjoyed both pieces overall. I thought “The Holy Name of Apostasy” was interesting. While I thought both performers, Varda Appleton and Brandon Courture conveyed their characters well, I especially liked the performance of Brandon Courture. The role of Dylan is the heavier lift of the two, because the script requires that role to go through many more deeper and more emotional levels, often reeling immediately from one to the next. Whereas the role of Mother Dawn, while complex, was inherently more internal and restrained.
I thought Courture’s performance was very credible, entirely engrossing and on some level, deeply affecting. The angst of the character was palpable in his portrayal. So much so, that at times it even felt uncomfortable, which it should have, as the content suggests. So kudos to this actor for a fine performance with material that was not easy to pull off plausibly. I will remember his performance for a very long time.
Also kudos again to Varda Appleton, whose performance was deliberate, steady and engrossing and included nice touches of both menace and madness, as well as danger. As a slight tangent, I found myself thinking this actress would make an extraordinary Lady Macbeth, and that is no easy task. But her depth and range in the role of Mother Dawn only makes me curious to see what other roles would challenge her talents.
The second piece, “Man vs. Armadillo” offered the audience several moments of some much needed humor, especially after the first piece. The script effortlessly went from comedy to pathos, largely due to the facile realizations of their roles by the two actors, Kevin Scott Allen as Dick and Ryan Lisman as John.
Allen was particularly affecting as the older man who constantly vacillated from clarity to confusion. Anyone who has seen a parent lapse into the early stages of dementia would recognize his character. While the levels of anger, exasperation, sadness, with an overriding love which Lisman brought to John, was also easily recognizable.
Both Benjamin Schwartz and Ryan Lisman should each take a bow, actually several, as writers, directors and in Lisman’s case, also as an actor in one of the pieces. These two should be gratified that they provided their audience with an enjoyable and entertaining and engrossing evening of theatre.
What I didn't like
While I enjoyed both pieces, I found the drum work to be distracting in both. I should point out this review is of the first night’s performance. Likely changes have been made since. However, the drums should be used judiciously, to punctuate the action. Instead, it too frequently drowned out the dialogue or drew too much attention to itself with little discernible purpose. Ultimately, less is more. But again, this concern was likely addressed after the opening night performance, as this appeared to be a common concern among many in the audience. No doubt that got communicated to the directors.
I was also left unsure of any real connectivity between the two pieces. I understand they apparently share a thread of “guilt” on some level. But both pieces are so much more than an exploration of that one, particular, some what non-specific and nebulous word. Perhaps another, more satisfying common element(s) might have been found which would have better serviced the two pieces being performed together.
My overall impression
Positive. Two interesting and multi-layered pieces that were both entertainingly written and well acted.