Review: Spotlight Theatre continues to challenge its audiences, stages the premiere of ‘Absolution’

Ryan Stone’s lighting design for “Absolution” enhances the play’s dark and light moods. 

By Margie Royal

It’s exciting to see a new play produced, and even more exciting when that play gets its first staging in Delaware County! Spotlight Theatre is presenting a new work by Dave Ebersole, “Absolution” through July 29. Avid theatre-goers may recognize Dave’s name: he’s a fine director and has staged works at Colonial Playhouse, Players Club of Swarthmore and elsewhere.

“Absolution” is part of a trilogy, but you needn’t have seen the other two plays to enjoy this engaging and well-acted production. (Although you can see a staged reading of one of the other plays, “Maps For The Getaway,” July 30 at 2 p.m. as part of the Players Club of Swarthmore’s New Play Festival).

“Absolution” takes place in a seedy motel room. Mobster Ric (Walter McCready) is introduced to the audience by a narrator (Lizzy Dalton-Negron) who will serve as commentator and audience guide throughout the 90-minute show. Ric has made a deal with government agent Ryker (Charles Hoffmann). The deal means he must betray his partner, Clay (Jay Mazzola). Because Walter has a fatherly affection for Clay, he arranges for Clay and Lata (Dana Corvino) to meet, and I won’t say more as I don’t want to give away the whole plot.

Merriam-Webster defines the word “absolution” as the “act of forgiving someone for having done something wrong” and that is what the play explores. With a mobster tale, the audience comes in with certain expectations: there will be violence, sex and murder, and these “Absolution” delivers. What’s unusual is that the play also mixes in an unexpected and moving sweetness that uplifts the gritty world these characters inhabit .

Of course, no play, new or old, can succeed without good actors to bring the writer’s vision to life. “Absolution” has a fine cast of actors, chosen and directed by Mr. Ebersole. The audience is seated around the action on three sides of the motel bed and dresser. Walter McCready does a good job conveying Ric’s weariness with life and the deep empathy he has for Lata and Clay. Charles Hoffmann is appropriately menacing as the hardboiled government agent. Dana Corvino does an excellent job as Lata. She makes it clear that Lata has led a hard-scrabble life, but that underneath her toughness, thanks in part to Walter, there is a willingness to better herself.  Jay Mazzola is outstanding as Clay. Clay’s job is to dispose of the bodies killed by the mob’s hit men. But instead of a cynical nature, Clay has a innocence and sincerity that Mr. Mazzola brings fully to life.

With the first staging of a new play it’s not unusual for the playwright to make tweaks to the script after having seen it performed in front of an audience. Here’s my two cents on one adjustment that could be made – (and this is no slight to actress Lizzy Dalton-Negron), is that at times I felt the narrator’s commentary was unnecessary, redundant and, even at times, stopped the action. Eliminating the narrator would reduce the casting requirements from five actors to four, and make the play even more attractive to theatres whose economics force them to specialize in small-cast shows.

If you like seeing new plays, don’t miss this one!

If you go:  Remaining performances are July 23*, 27, 28, 29, 2017

Evenings at 8 PM – Tickets $15.00

*Matinee at 2 PM – Tickets $12.00

Not recommended for children due to adult content. Also, be advised that the theatre is not air-conditioned.

Performances at Swarthmore United Methodist Church, 129 Park Ave., Swarthmore, PA 19081
To buy tickets, click here.