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Edited by Robert W. McDowell

A FREE Weekly Arts Newsletter
April 6, 2017 Issue



PART 3A -- VESPER AND BENRUD THEATER REVIEW: Revival (Ward Theatre Company in Durham).


PART 4A -- McDOWELL THEATER PREVIEW: Jesus Christ Superstar (North Carolina Theatre in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.


NOTE: Please note that Triangle Arts and Entertainment ( is Triangle Review's Internet partner. A dynamic regional website that covers art, theater, dance, music, and much, much more, Triangle Arts and Entertainment will reprint Triangle Review previews and reviews -- in their entirety -- in eye-pleasing magazine-style web page layouts, complete with photos and other graphics. -- R.W.M.


Ward Theatre Company Review

High-Quality Acting Creates Three-Dimensional Characters
as Revival Weaves a Complex Tapestry of Appalachia

Revival stars Amber Oliver (left) and Sarah Yates Dale

He will make your path straight
Fear the lord and turn away from evil

          That's the message that greets you on the wall as you enter Ward Theatre Company's space in Durham to watch Revival, playing through May 7th. The Ward Theatre Company's latest piece, directed by Wendy Ward, transformed and transported us.

          When the curtain rises, it's 1959; and we're in Appalachia. It's the weekend of the annual Big Tent Revival; and we are right there in the tent, about to spend 80 minutes with nine members of the community as they interact with each other and listen to (and react to) their preacher.

          This Ward Theatre Company original is a nontraditional piece in that it is simply a slice of the lives of this community. Rather than a concrete start-to-finish story with plot and conflict, we are treated to four scenes that give an open-ended taste of this society as its members experience each other and the revival, its prelude, and its aftermath. Each member has his/her own reasons for attending the revival, and each has his/her own reactions to the preacher's words. Likewise, each character must deal with his/her own inner demons.

          Even though Revival does not fit into the genre of "musical theater," it does include some song-and-dance. It also includes the narrative of one character's experience that is most certainly a dream and of another's spiritual journey during a near-death experience. In addition, there is an intense sequence in which we are invited into each character's inner consciousness, a kind of quasi-dream-sequence that takes place at a climactic moment of this event.

          Preshow music is appropriate for the setting. We experienced it as though it were being played live in the next room.

          The first scene takes place on Friday, the evening before the big revival; and we will meet a few of the characters, getting glimpses of their lives and hints about their relationships.

          Scene Two takes place on Saturday -- it is the Opening Day Service. It begins with a fun, lively activity that we have named "the folding-chair dance." It's a stylized expression of the people's joy as they anticipate the beginning of this communal worship service.

          As they settle into the service, the people all become engaged by the preacher's words. The audience faces the characters as they face the front of the tent, hearing the preacher talking about such interrelated topics as "running the race" and believing. This choice of staging gives a unique perspective, a front-row seat as the characters share this experience with us.

          The scene also includes another dance, accompanied by what we would term "Gospel Rap." As stylized as some of these sequences are, the transitions are so smooth that we never felt that we had departed from the realm of "realism."

          Scene Three occurs later that evening, and we get to spend more time with a few of the individuals. Offstage sounds suggest that an old-time square dance is in progress, and we (along with these characters) are just a little way outside of the action.

          Scene Four is the Sunday morning worship service. It includes ritual and frenzy.

          The beauty of this piece is in the intimate feeling of our experience of each of the characters. We meet them and learn about them in small doses. Each one is a part of the fabric of this community, and we leave feeling that we have seen (and been somewhat immersed in) its complex tapestry. This feeling, we surmise, was due to the high quality of the acting, which afforded a genuineness and a sense of completion in the portrayals of the various characters.

          The program simply lists the onstage actors as the "Holy Rollers": Dominique Barnes, Sarah Dale, Evit Emerson, Amber Oliver, Alexandra Petkus, Kara Phelps, Margery Rinaldi, Rick Scarbez, and Chadwick Thompson. It also names Brandon Cooke as the recorded voice of Pastor Ralph Hewitt.

          In a post-show chat with the director, we learned that "the tech guy" is Bryan Walser.

          From The Department of Picky-Picky: Although the dialogue does supply most of them, we would have liked it if the program had listed the names of the characters, preferably linking them with the names of the actors.

          Costumes and props are all period- and character-specific for this community, right down to the 1950s-style eyeglasses, the wicker hand fans, and the period hairstyles.

          Ward Theatre Company staging is also non-traditional -- every seat is a front-row seat. The audience watches from two single rows perpendicular to each other. Although all seats are good, we recommend seats slightly right-of-center in the longer row.

          Ward Theatre Company is located at 4905 Pine Cone Drive, Suite 12, in Durham. It's kind of out-of-the-way, but we recommend taking the trip. Revival is well worth it.

Revival also stars Evit Emerson and Alexandra Petkus

          SECOND OPINION: March 29th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods:; and March 29th Hillsborough, NC WHUP interviews, conducted by Wayne Leonard: (at the 22-minute mark).

          The Ward Theatre Company presents REVIVAL at 7:30 p.m. April 7 and 8; 2 p.m. April 9; 7:30 p.m. April 14, 15, and 18-22; 2 p.m. April 23; 7:30 p.m. April 25-29; 2 p.m. April 30; 7:30 p.m. May 5 and 6; and 2 p.m. May 7 at 4905 Pine Cone Dr., Suite 12, Durham, North Carolina 27707. TICKETS: $25. BOX OFFICE: 917-816-2122 or (scroll down). SHOW: PRESENTER/VENUE: and DIRECTIONS: NOTE: All shows are wheelchair accessible. OTHER LINKS; Wendy Ward (director): and (official web pages) and (Facebook page), and

EDITOR'S NOTE: Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she's not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights' Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.


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