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A CurtainUp NJ Review
Part thriller and part psychological inquiry, savvy New Jersey audiences will likely make the connection as the ensuing discourse and developing dilemma unfold between a man of faith with a medical practitioner. The play alludes to the 2005 case of a serial murderer, Charles Cullen, a nurse who was charged and convicted of murdering 29 patients in his care at various N.J. hospitals. At least three books and two TV specials delved into his personality and motivations.
Stone's play is not a replay of that case but it appears to be its inspiration. Stone, who is the literary manager for NJ Rep., was commissioned by NJPAC's Stage Exchange in Association with the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and NJ Rep to write a "a cutting edge work." As such, the play cuts to the core of Father Dan's belief in forgiveness, salvation, and redemption as he attempts to relieve the desperation of the apparently unhinged Carl who feels compelled to end the life of those terminally ill and without hope. The play deals with moral and ethical values that are clearly at stake. It directly considers the perspectives of the spiritually grounded Father Dan in contrast to Carl who wants to strike back at a God who can be so cruel.
The crux of the play turns on a twist that would be cruel to reveal.As a thriller should, the plot takes a few unexpected curves in order to confound us. These include both Father Dan and Carl challenging each other in a battle of wills, each facing the truth of their own callings. Not sure whether the digressions into song merely muddle the action or compliment it as the two seem to connect for a while recalling tunes both Christian and rock n' roll. Confessions surface as their pasts appear to be linked. Is Father Dan's life put in peril? Can Carl's soul be saved? Can Father Dan ever reveal what he learns about Carl?
Adamson has commendable grasp of Father Dan as a devout but conventional purveyor of God's words all the while confronting his own battle with health and faith. Playing the sociopath-provocateur, Delaney certainly captures our interest as he shifts his increasingly diabolical tactics so that Father Dan is forced to face his own demons. While credibility is stretched, the actors, under Evan Bergman's direction keep the tension taut throughout an eighty-minute play in which God's messenger is pitted against the Devil's executioner. The interior a small town church has been handsomely evoked by set designer Jessica Parks.
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The Calling by Joel Stone
Directed by Evan Berman
Cast: Ames Adamson (Father Dan), Jared Michael Delaney (Carl)
Stage Manager: Kristin Pfeifer
Scenic Design: Jessica Parks
Lighting Design: Jill Nagle
Sound Design: Merek Royce Press
Costume Design: Patricia E. Doherty
Running Time: 1 hour 20 minutes no intermission
New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, N.J.
Performances: Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm; Sundays at 2 pm.
From 01/04/18 Opened 06/06/18 Ends 02/04/18
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 07/07/18
NJ Theatre Alliance
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