Dramawerks earthen vessel show holds a treasure
Penny Rathbun, Staff Writer
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Rover Dramawerks The Runner Stumbles
is an earthen vessel of a production.
verse in 2 Corinthians says, But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
The verse also can be applied to the conflict between Father Rivard and Sister
Rita, the two main characters in Milan Stitts play. The two let the crockery
part of their psyches obliterate the treasure part, but its easy to see
They are stationed in a remote Michigan town about a century ago in
the dead of winter, or it seems like the dead of winter. Both are at the height
of their reproductive years, and hormones quickly overrule any vow of chastity.
almost all the other characters in the play disapprove mightily. The story is
told in flashbacks as Father Rivard sits in jail. He has been arrested for the
murder of Sister Rita.
The courtroom scenes are especially cramped and
odd looking. One very important speech is delivered so that hardly anyone can
see or hear the actor saying the lines. That flaw occurs with some regularity
throughout the play, although it is partially due to the configuration of the
theatre for this show, with the audience on three sides.
There is also
a stumbling block to suspension of disbelief with Rivards ill fitting cassock.
The number of times it has to be put on and taken off proves that hook-and-fastener
tape is not always a godsend in the theatre.
All that is the earthen vessel
part. Get over it. There is a treasure to be found.
Corey Whaley as Father
Rivard is perfect casting. His boyish face and aw-shucks-mam mannerisms
are charming enough, but add a clerical collar to what otherwise is an attractive
bachelor, and Sister Rita doesnt have a chance.
His portrayal of
the priest from earnest pastor through doubts, forbidden sexual attraction, authoritarianism
and profound sadness is a journey well worth traveling for the audience.
advent of Sister Rita brings an abundance of internal conflict for herself and
all the other characters. Julie Osborne gives the nun the kind of tamped-down
enthusiasm thats going to get the character in trouble one way or another.
Osborne successfully navigates the very fine line between flyingnun cuteness and
Black Narcissus overdrama. Her Sister Rita is likable and someone
you wouldnt mind instructing your kids.
Whaleys and Osbornes
scenes together are very engaging. It is easy to
empathize with their plight
even if their scenes are a bit overlong here and
there, but that is the fault
of the script.
Tina Kane as Mrs. Shandig, the disapproving housekeeper,
is an ideal catalyst for all this underground passion between the priest and nun.
Rather than play the part as an obvious judgmental presence, Kane makes Shandigs
attraction to Rivard and her jealousy of Rita visible.
is the bishops secretary. Ron Eubanks as the cleric is ever so self-important
and a walking examination of everyone elses conscience.
is a remarkably welldressed prosecutor and makes it clear Eubanks does not have
a monopoly on self-importance.
Gary Anderson plays Toby Felker, Rivards
defense attorney. Anderson makes the lawyer appropriately seedy, but amusing as
he makes Rivards plight even worse.
Amanda Elrod as Erna Prindle
and Heather McCormick as Louise provide stolid portrayals of parishioners.
Sturlin is a dependable presence as the jailer.
The Runner Stumbles
is definitely an earthen vessel show, but look past all that and go
on a treasure hunt.
The Rover Dramawerks production runs at the Cox Building
Playhouse in Plano through April 26.