New Phoenix Theatre has quite the interesting and intimate performance space. It’s full of color and warmth, inviting each audience member into a whatever setting the current production demands. For this month’s “Way Back When,” a selection of one-act plays, that setting is a heavenly home above the clouds, a vibrant garden and an earthy cabin, providing the backdrop to three simple yet lighthearted and humorous stories.
. . .a delightful, faith-filled escape to the theater.
Betsy Bittar directs these productions of Grant Golden’s “Creation” and “Way Back When” and Rebecca Ritchie’s “In the Beginning.” Thanks to a strong quartet of actors, each play is progressively more entertaining than the last and, most notably, provides a deeper questioning of one’s faith.
“Creation” tells the story of God’s creation of Earth through his time home with his wife (aptly named “Mrs. God”) and their differing opinions on what makes a good planet. “In the Beginning,” a more Earthbound tale, showcases Eve after Adam’s death as documentary filmmakers are shooting a movie about his life. An encounter with his long-forgotten first wife, Lillith, makes for a very fresh take on the traditional story and seems to have an effect on Eve’s perspective on life. The evening closes with “Way Back When,” telling the tale of God testing Abraham’s faith.
David Lundy portrays God in two of these pieces, bringing a relatable and humorous take to a commonly divine figure, especially in moments when he brags to his wife about creating a new planet and naming the most ferocious creature (a T-Rex) after himself. Lundy’s use of typical husband stereotypes work well against the idea of God as a holier than thou figure and is a strong character throughout the evening.
Pamela Rose Mangus takes on two strong women, Mrs. God and Lillith, and boy, she does not disappoint. Tasked with having to differentiate two very opinionated women, she balances the delights and frustrations of being Mrs. God against Lillith’s cynical, darker demeanor with great ease.
Kathleen Rooney plays both Eve and Abraham’s wife Sarah, but it is her performance in the former that is a standout of the night. Rooney’s Eve visibly transforms as she begins to question her role in the creation of the world alongside her husband and brought a lot of depth to what the Bible depicts as a fairly two-dimensional character.
Rounding out the quartet is Jon Summers, who was quite the surprise as Abraham after a fairly kitschy debut as Jacob, Eve’s documentarian. He’s able to change clothing and character quickly, giving a very honest performance as a man forced to question his faith when asked to kill his son.
John F. Kennedy designed a simple yet effective set which worked well in the confines of the theater space, especially considering it was used for three plays.
“Way Back When” is a delightful, faith-filled escape to the theater. These four talented actors will surely warm you up during this chilly winter.
Running time: 2 hours including two 10-minute intermissions.
“Way Back When” plays through at February 24th at New Phoenix Theatre. For more information, click here.