RAPTUREDBy Matt Lyle and Matt Coleman
Directed by Jeffrey Schmidt
Scenic Design – David Walsh
Costume Design – Sarah Harris
Lighting Design – Aaron Johansen
Sound Design – Marco Salinas
Fight/Intimacy Choreographer – Jeffrey Colangelo
Stage Manager – Katie Marchant*
Production Assistant – Emily Ann Probus
Props Manager—Don’t know but I want to meet him or her.
Al – Jeff Swearingen**
Dick – Chad Cline**
Gracie – Sally Soldo
Martha – Shannon J. McGrann*
Robin – Jeremy Whiteker
Ruth – Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso
Sam – Jackie Cabe*
Tonya – Alle Mims**
Troy – Christopher Lew*
* Member of Actor’s Equity Association
** Equity membership Candidate
Reviewed Performance: 4/29/2019
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
But if you think there is anything religious, or demure, or even a close cousin of appropriate about this production, guess again. I cannot recall so many sex jokes packed into two hours. And I promise you, that is saying something. I’m from New Orleans.
Raptured is a madcap comedy that has everything: a running gag about the spouse we never get to see; every possible variation of “in the closet jokes”; every possible variation of Dick (I capitalized it) jokes; a running who’s-on-first style miscommunication but for orgies versus murder; a three way version of the switched bag gag; a misinterpreted three way; a comically mismatched couple with itinerant walking impairments; Christ felled by a sex toy—Raptured has everything. And if by chance you find yourself in Uncertain, Texas—word for the wise--stay out of the Dairy Queen bathroom. But, on the other hand, the community college baseball team has it good.
One spiritual omission in the program is the failure to identify the Props Manager. Did he or she make these purchases in person, chicken out and mail order, or have these items on hand? If you want to know what a stack of cash, a stack of Oprah magazines, and a sack of astoundingly diverse dildos have in common, you will have to buy a ticket and see this play for yourself.
To say that the Raptured’s characters are flawed would be an understatement, but of course that is why they are so funny. Sam (Jakie Cabe) is not what anyone would call a good person, but Cabe makes you love him anyway. The play commences informally with Cabe breaking the fourth wall, treating us to a stand up comedy routine. He is in character as a Baptist preacher explaining his new favorite app: swipe up if you think someone is going to Heaven . . . (you get the picture). Even the pre-production announcement is hilarious, with a reference to the “Book of Alder,” and the warning that, “If you do not subscribe, you are in danger of being left behind.”
Cabe’s Sam is a younger, handsomer Tom Arnold-as-the-Music Man. This play is a roller coaster of belly laughs, careening from one (frequently dirty) joke to another, and Cabe is having a heck of a great time with it. The comic dialogue ranges from deadpan to flatly outrageous, and Cabe excels at both. When navigating difficult conversations with two unholy Church Ladies, the sex-crazed secretary, Martha (Shannon J. McGrann), and the knife-wielding volunteer, Gracie (Sally Soldo), the inherently dishonest Sam resorts to the truth: “That’s as good an explanation as any,” and “I don’t know how I could,” he replies, with equal condescension and diplomacy. The dialogue in Raptured is consistently whip smart.
One cannot feel too sorry for the insanity Sam must endure, as he brought it on himself. Through putative “Bible math”—math is real, and you add the Bible—Sam has purported to calculate the precise time of the rapture, prompting a parade of end-of-life crazy.
The rascally Sam’s faithful and clueless sidekick, Al, is played by Jeff Swearingen. I confess to being a Swearingen fan since his one hundred percent perfect turn as Mercutio in Shakespeare in the Park’s Romeo and Juliet. He has the ability to infuse his characters with tremendous yet simultaneously natural physicality, and can laser-focus an underlying ferocious intensity (okay, I don’t know the guy, and that’s just my best guess; more intellectual-sounding than gargantuan talent, which could be a better way to put it). Here, Swearingen is the hapless straight man. Al is a tricky character, as he frequently appears monumentally stupid, but he is the only one to understand the punch line involving part-time accountant Ruth (a convincing, lovely Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso). Rather than being across-the-board dim, Al exhibits an extreme form of loyalty to a fault. Through the character of Al, Raptured explores the downside of “faith.” Al is needy, yet somehow Swearingen makes him thoroughly adorable.
In the relationship between a desperately frustrated Troy (Christopher Lew) and a covert nymphomaniac Tonya (Alle Mims), Raptured takes potshots at the religious obsession with chastity, or “purity,” as Troy puts it. Lew and Mims veer in and out of the action, and both are marvelously funny with their characters’ self-imposed physical impairments.
Kudos to the Director, Jeffrey Schmidt. The brilliant comic timing is exquisite. The action-packed antics are seamlessly staged and executed. And trust me, this production really needs a “Fight/Intimacy Choreographer”—great job Jeffrey Colangelo.
Much of the intimacy is brought to us by the overly amorous Church secretary, played in no-holes-barred fashion by a writhing, deliciously naughty, progressively unclothed McGrann. Soldo’s Gracie is also fantastic and the audience soaked up her turn breaking the fourth wall in the second act. As the elder Church Lady, Gracie has some outrageously funny quips, which Soldo finesses with deadpan gravitas. “Oh, I’m not in line,” and “that’s why I made George quit the Lion’s Club”—I am literally still laughing.
Through the effeminate Youth Minister, Robin (Jeremy Whiteker), the Raptured pokes fun at the self-loathing underlying certain religious doctrine. One would not think that a closeted Southern Baptist gay character could still be funny in 2019, but an ever-sassy Whiteker earns his share of laughs. He ultimately comes out of the closet, but as a (gasp!) liberal. Whiteker and Soldo have perfect chemistry and timing as they hilariously miscommunicate.
Robin, Al, and Dick (Chad Cline), execute a series of “Fight/Intimacy” choreographed stunts that are pure physical comedy. Cline rises to the challenge of a physically difficult role, and is simultaneously menacing and hilarious as the play’s only true villain.
Theatre Three consistently uses its black box space to great advantage. I have come to expect phenomenal sets and was not disappointed. The set design features a stained-glass window, a cleverly versatile bookshelf-cum-sex-table-cum-alter, and perfectly angled and constructed doors for the action-packed entrances and exits, not to mention the toppling corpse. The spot-on costumes run the gamut from Gracie’s fun Church Lady hats to Mims’ body-skimming seductress ensemble.
To say I enjoyed the Raptured is an understatement. I basically laughed for two hours and I’m still chuckling the next day. We all can use a great laugh: buy a ticket.
April 25 – May 19, 2019
Theatre Three, Norma Young Arena Stage
2800 Routh Street, #168, Dallas, Texas 75201
For information and Tickets call 214 871-3300 or go to https://www.theatre3dallas.com/shows-tickets/.