Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: A Flock of Mormons

Mormon's are so in. While pop culture occasional pokes fun at the religion, exploring the deeper seeded truths of Mormonism is refreshing. In Roger Benington's highly brazen and intellectual The Mormon Bird Play, an ensemble of six young men explore the story of Ivona a mute girl through the Mormon lens.
From birds to pioneers to young girls, The Mormon Bird Play is a series of sketches with a through story about a young mute girl named Ivona and her journey to baptism. Along the way, the allegoric dream concept explores the history of the Mormon religion. As writer and director, Benington certainly has a vision. If you have difficulty processing this play, you're not alone. The script is quite thorough and poetic but occasionally difficult to follow. While the focus is primarily on Ivona, it shifts over to Evan's story. Though they do intersect, it gets a bit blurred. The play is a morality play about faith and identity with two young characters on opposite sides of the spectrum. Despite Ivona being the focal point of the characters’ discussion, it’s Evan’s journey that is truly more appealing. When the play moves into the dream concept, the energy explodes and the comedy truly shines.
With a progressive script to tackle, the ensemble was all willing and able to play. Leading the flock was Billy Hutto as Pippa. Hutto offered a transformative performance as the young, opptomistic girl. Hutto’s commitment was committed and flawless, easily livening Pippa. James Leach as Clifford was beautifully na├»ve. Like Hutto, Leach discovered his character with great ability, you could believe him as a young boy. Thomas Sullivan as Evan and Brennan Pickman-Thoon brought drive to their moments on stage.
Roger Benington had his hands completely full wearing three hats for the production. As writer, director, and scenic and costume designer, Benington ensured his vision was perfectly executed. From a design stand point, Benington created a visually stimulating world for his characters to live in. With perhaps the exception of Jordan Parente’s Brenda’s costume, an ill colored burlap sack looking dress, the costumes fit the characters and the actors quite well. The simplicity of the scenic design, including a piece of fabric that could be pulled on a clothes line allowed lighting designer Philip Treino to do wonders with color and mood.
The Mormon Bird Play is a polarizing work. It’s smart and unique but occasionally prevents the audience to enter the world without previous knowledge of the said world. Where The Mormon Bird Play shines is through the pictures Benington creates on stage.