REVIEW: “Church & State” at Burien Actors Theatre
By Lindsay Peyton
The dramedy “Church & State” takes audiences to a pivotal moment in an election--to the moments before a candidate makes his speech. The play, now showing at Burien Actors Theatre, centers around the main character’s change of heart.
Senator Charles Whitmore, played by Gianni Truzzi, is running for office with the slogan “Jesus is my running mate!” So, what happens when he starts to doubt his belief in God? That’s the crux of the story.
Whitmore has just returned from the funeral of children in his son’s first grade class, resulting from a school shooting with an assault rifle. After the ceremony, he meets a conservative blogger, who asks if the senator has turned to prayer at the time of the tragedy. Whitmore admits that he has not and that he finds it difficult to believe in a God who would allow this horrific event to occur.
The revelation is met with dismay by Whitmore’s wife Sara, played by Brynne Garman, and campaign manager Alex Klein, played by Caitlin Gilman.
The idea for the play, written by Jason Odell Williams, came after the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007. The playwright said the urgency for the story only increased after the Tuscon, Aurora and Newtown shootings.
In a note about the work, around the time of its premier in June 2016, Williams wrote, “While most writers hope that their work will live forever, my dream for this play is that it will become obsolete. And many years from now people will read it and think, ‘How quaint! Americans used to argue about gun control.’ But as the news incessantly reminds us, these mass shootings are not going away any time soon.”
The play is certainly a political piece, an argument for the merits of gun control. It’s also a meditation on politics, journalism, religion, fear, apathy, sexism and “The Twitter.”
Most importantly, the show is about the “power we all have to change,” as the senator says.
“Church & State” is a “best new play nominee” with both the Off-Broadway Alliance and L.A. Ovation Awards. This will serve as its northwest premiere.
The show is fun to watch, mostly full of laughs, but with a strong dose of a serious message. Truzzi’s performance is outstanding, and kudos to Max Lopuszynski, who played four characters--Tom, Marshall, the reporter and a security guy--with flair.
The play runs through May 20. Performances are slated for 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. for Sunday matinees. Burien Actors Theatre is located at 14501 4th Ave. SW.
Rochelle Flynn and Maggie Larrick directed the talented cast, and Heather Bernadette served as the show’s stage manager. Albie Clementi designed the set, Zanna King ran the lighting and Cyndi Baumgardner designed the props.
Vivian K. Smith designed costumes, and Gavin McLean served as dialect coach.
As with all Burien Actors Theatre performances, specialty drinks have been created to match the theme of the show by Eric Dickman, who also was the sound designer.
Special to this show is the Whitmore selfie challenge. During the run of the play, Burien Actors Theatre challenges audience members to take and post a selfie with the senator.
Post the selfie on facebook saying you attended “Church & State” and tag Burien Actors Theatre (@burienactorstheatre). Every week through May 20, the theatre will choose a winning selfie and reward the photographer with a “BATcoin” worth $5.
These new coins are also given as rewards for regular drawings at the theatre or for gift giving. The coins are redeemable at local businesses, including Armoire Chocolat, Burien Press, Phoenix Tea Shop, Pickled & Preserved, Page 2 Books and the theatre’s box office and concessions stand.
For information, visit www.burienactorstheatre.org or call 206-242-5180.
Burien Actors Theatre is also participating in Give Big Seattle, a 24-hours, citywide fundraiser held on Wednesday, May 9. To donate to the nonprofit, visit www.givebigseattle.org/burien-actors-theatre-1.