Hot Damn and Hallelujah! Can I Get An Amen For Church?

Thinking Cap Theatre’s Immersive Experience Irresistable

Roger Martin, ATCA

LEFT: Ann Marie Olson, Scott Douglas Wilson, Vanessa Elise, Carey Brianna Hart.


LEFT: Ann Marie Olson, Scott Douglas Wilson, Vanessa Elise, Carey Brianna Hart.

Our friend Google describes heathen thusly: a person who does not belong to a widely held religion (especially one who is not a Christian, Jew or Muslim) as regarded by those who do. Synonyms: pagan, infidel, idolater, heretic, unbeliever, disbeliever, nonbeliever, atheist, agnostic, skeptic.

I confess I fall into many of the above categories, but had someone taken me down in the river after watching Church I would have happily slid backwards into the blessed waters. Oh, yes.

Church is normally performed in a large tent on the grounds of Thinking Cap’s new home, but moves to the Muse Center for the Arts when thunderstorms threaten. And last night the lightning was flashing so indoors we went. The crew toted the chairs and equipment a couple of blocks down the street, set everything up in just a few minutes and the show started almost right on time. Strong ceiling lights, (no optic ballet here). An inkling of the enthusiasm to come.

LEFT: Carey Brianna Hart, Scott Douglas Wilson, Ann Marie Olson, Vanessa Elise.


LEFT: Carey Brianna Hart, Scott Douglas Wilson, Ann Marie Olson, Vanessa Elise.

Written by the brilliantly imaginative Young Jean Lee, Church is a down home revival meeting. Revival of the spirit, that is. And as performed by Thinking Cap’s cast it is completely enthralling pure theater.

Director Nicole Stodard’s notes include: “...No fourth wall? Completely immersive? Colossal subject matter? Yes!...”

It is an evening of gospel songs and sermons, dancing and joy. I know, that’s pretty simplistic, but this cast is so captured by the material that their enthusiasm becomes irresistible.

Scott Douglas Wilson, Vanessa Elise, Ann Marie Olson and Carey Brianna Hart are the four Reverends who testify and Sabrina Lynn Gore is the Choir Director and Soloist.

Mariah Busk, Amy S. London and Miles Smith are the choir members and the band members are Michael Friedman, guitar, keyboard and vocals; Anthony John Calaluca, guitar and vocals and Chas Collins, drums and vocals.

Church opens with gospel music and there’s a ton of it. The traditional “This Little Light of Mine”; “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (I know, that isn’t gospel, but it certainly rocked); “Like a Prayer”, gospel rock; traditional “Down in the River” sung a capella by Gore and Olson; “I’ll Fly Away” were just a few openers for the 60 minute one act evening.

Each of the four Reverends delivered stories of sin and redemption. All had hold of Young Jean Lee’s words and wouldn’t let go, living every tale. Scott Douglas Wilson as the Reverend Jose had the lead. In every way. Three sermons/tales/testimonials, call them what you will, were mesmerizing. His love of the material inspiring.

I had made a note: “This isn’t a play.” But of course it is, in the very best sense.

Church plays Friday through Sunday, 8 p.m., and Saturday at 8 and 10 p.m., Aug. 8 through 24, at The Vanguard, 1501 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $28. Students with valid identification $15 at the door. Call (813) 220 1546 or WEATHER ADVISORY: In the event of a thunderstorm, the show will be performed nearby at Muse Center for the Arts, 99 SW 14th Street. Call to confirm location change due to weather (813) 220-1546).

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