I’ve always had mixed feelings about Richmond’s Acts of Faith Festival.
While many of the shows involved are genuinely concerned with faith, all too often it seems that theater companies are simply trying to benefit from the bump in marketing and tap into the pool of churchgoers to swell their audiences. As amusing as works like Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever” might be, exactly how are they related to faith?
No such duplicity is at work in Richmond Triangle Players latest show “The Busy World Is Hushed.” Episcopal minister Hannah (Linda Beringer) is working on a book about a recently unearthed gospel, and she’s hired Brandt (Chris O’Neill) to ghostwrite for her. Things get more complicated as Brandt begins to become attracted to Thomas (Chris Hester), Hannah’s free-spirited son. The show makes the point that for many, interpersonal and philosophical issues are intertwined and can never be completely separated. Hester brings the enthusiastic ramblin’ man Thomas to life, and O’Neill does good work as Brandt, the everyman suffering from his own family problems thrown into this scenario. Beringer brings the proper amount of reserve and skepticism to Hannah, the minister who doesn’t mind questioning some of the past beliefs of her church.
Keith Bunin’s script does an excellent job of letting the plot unfold naturally, even if some of the lines are a bit too eloquent to seem plausible in actual conversation. All three of the play’s characters are fully developed, and you rarely get the sense that any character is completely wrong or completely right in a conflict. Especially in moments when Hannah questions Thomas’ bohemian lifestyle or Thomas grills Hannah about her faith, you feel that each character’s opinion contains a nugget of truth.
Dexter M. Ramey’s even-handed direction never favors one argument over another, and David Allan Ballas’ set looks every bit the cluttered apartment of an Episcopal minister, down to the detail work on the stained-glass windows.
An ambitious work about the meaning of life and the delusions that we self-perpetuate, “Busy World” is an engaging show that will give audiences plenty to chew on.
“The Busy World is Hushed” plays through March 23 at Richmond Triangle Players, 1300 Altamont Ave. For more information, visit rtriangle.org or call 346-8113.