By Margaret Darby
Taking on a medieval morality play and playing it for laughs is a daunting task, but Once More Theatre is committed to ambitious projects like productions for The Community College of Philadelphia’s reentry program for currently and recently incarcerated students. They also produce rarely seen classic plays. For this venture, Jimmy Guckin, a veteran of the Irish Heritage Theatre, has adapted the medieval morality play “Everyman” into a very hip one-act being shown in the black box upstairs at Plays and Players.
Guckin’s efforts to modernize the script is sometimes jarring, with lines like, “LeBron James didn’t create the freaking universe, did he?” but his challenge of common conceptions of deity was deft. Guckin himself plays The Almighty, a bored and indifferent God, more eager to watch football games on television than manage the universe. He senses that mankind no longer reveres him, so he has his minions fetch a human to test their loyalty while he goes off to “catch a movie”.
The outstanding performance in the show is the archangel Gabriel (Carlos Forbes) who is an excellent actor with great delivery, but his Prologue was filled with flubs, which seem to have been written into the script. Was this an attempt at humor?
Azrael (Barbaluz Orlando) had great energy, but addressed her dastardly devious plans to destroy the earth upstage with her back to the audience.
Every(one) (Kassandra Bradford) has a certain simplistic and innocent charm. Her character is a young person working a minimum wage job in a bakery. Unfortunately, she was slow to react to the other players. Her interview with the Advocate (played with devilish grace by Brittany Fauzer) could have been a lot funnier if she had let the Advocate take the lead in the comical inquisition.
The show began to move more quickly when the Almighty finally returned for the Inquisition and the Son (Hezekiah Jackson) injected liveliness into the dialogue, keeping the attention on the final reckoning and showing the forgiveness that only the Son could provide.
There were weaknesses in Peggy Mecham’s direction, particularly with blocking. The small set worked well, but was not quite big enough to allow one group of actors to freeze while the next group continued.
This was preview night and many of the glitches may smooth themselves out during the rest of the run, but Once More Theatre is about to establish themselves as an independent company, ending their residency at the Community College of Philadelphia. Their mission of bringing lesser-known works to the stage is an admirable one, but if they want to succeed in this niche, the productions will have to be tighter and more polished.
“Every(one)” is on stage at Plays and Players Theatre, 3rd Floor FL Skinner Studio, 1714 Delancey St., Philadelphia through February 2, 3, 8, 9,10, 2018 at 7:30, Sunday February 4 at 2:00 pm.. Tickets $20.00, Seniors $15.00, Students $10.00.