Friday, November 17, 2017

Review of Welcome to Jesus at American Theater Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Welcome to Jesus. It was by Janine Nabers and it was directed by Will Davis. It was about a all-white town in the middle of nowhere and their football coach, Arthur Henderson (Josh Odor), has started acting strangely right after their star player has died. They need a new star player, so when a young black man called Him (Rashaad Hall) shows up in the town, they ask him to be on the team. At first it doesn't seem like they care about his race, but as the play goes on, the town's racism starts to show. It is about prejudice, community, and what it really means to be a good person. This show really makes you think and feel all the emotions. It is eerie, horrifying, and I liked it.

The character Him was sort of a critique of the character in a lot of books, movies, and plays who is a person of color that is sort of magical and tells the white guy what to do and is a teaching figure. The focus in those type of stories is on the white people, and you aren't really supposed to pay attention to the ideas, opinions, and feelings of the person of color apart from how they are using them to help white people. They are only around in the plot when the white people need them. This play calls attention to what the white people are doing and how what they are doing is terrible and wrong. They are clearly taking advantage of Him, not just getting help from Him. It made me think about how many books and movies have this problem.

There were so many twists in this show, and I think the writer did a great job of hinting at each twist, but not giving it away. And each of the big reveals were very satisfying...or horrifying. I don't want to give anything away, but what you find out about Ma Danver (Stacy Stoltz)and Sheriff Danver (John Henry Roberts) and Coach Henderson is just insane and really well-written. It is a great twist and I wasn't expecting it at all. Everyone in this town is not what they seem. Dixie (Taylor Blim), especially. She seems like the girl next door, but she ends up being the girl next door that you want to move a few doors down from.

Even though this play is pretty dark, there are also some humorous moments. When the Sheriff had just been cutting up a body they found in the woods so it will fit in a bag, he walks out to talk to Bud Henderson (Theo Germaine). He hasn't realized that he is covered in blood, and he is very nonchalant about it. I found that very funny. There was a scene where they had just discovered some new information about the Coach's condition and he was trying to get away. And every time the lights would go down and they would come back up again, he would be in a new place in the same position. It would scare everybody, because he was just staring forward and he had just teleported, but he didn't seem to register that he was scaring anyone, and it was very very funny. Officer Mike Danver (Casey Morris) messes up a lot at his job; he literally loses dead bodies. That is how bad he is at his job.

People who would like this show are people who like great twists, critiquing stereotypes, and teleporting coaches. I think people should go see this show. It has a really crazy story, and I have never seen anything like it before.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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