Confessions of a Catholic Child – Exit Theatre
Confessions of a Catholic Child: Dramedy. Written by Elizabeth Appell. Directed by Ariel Craft. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy Street, San Francisco, CA
Elizabeth Appell’s Confessions of a Catholic Child has a lot in common structurally with Charles Dicken’s beloved Christmas Carol in that both main characters are exorcising demons. Scrooge, loses his miserly and cynical nature, and Regina Fredrickson, the bourbon and morphine swilling potential suicide, her lifelong religious guilt and confusions. Its wonderfully played out in Ariel Craft’s smartly constructed production enhanced by luminous performances by Christina Augello and Mikka Bonel.
We meet Regina on the last night of her life, suicide imminent due to advancing pancreatic cancer. In great pain, she swills morphine along with her favorite Jack Daniel’s while watching re-runs of Jeopardy. Oh, and it’s her birthday. Exit Theatre Artistic Director Christina Augello stars as Regina, imbuing her with a poignant resignation and clear purpose. All seems on track until she’s visited by her estranged daughter Kate (Hilda Roe), who can’t seem to call her mother Mommie – Regina it is. There’s an awkward tension between the two that is revealed as an alcohol tinged seduction of young Kate’s boyfriend by the mother.
Regina is visited by spectres from her past who reveal the fractured aspects of her past. The first is her younger self; the sexually adventurous and self-absorbed Homecoming who cannot fathom Regina’s desire to end her life. Played with great comic determination by Mikka Bonel (Outstanding Actress, 2014 Theatre Bay Area Awards), young Regina has an adulterous affair with a cute photographer (Paul Rodrigues), cuckolding her weak husband William (Ron Talbot) and destroying her marriage.
Regina is visited by the spirit of her aborted daughter (Nic A. Sommerfield) who seeks to know where she came from. A childlike Regina (Janice Rumschlag), fresh from her communion, plays the innocent spirit, obsessively in love with Jesus and annoyingly demanding love from the embittered older Regina. Her parent’s spirits (John Simpson and Laurel Scotland Stewart), trapped in a bourbon bottle and an odd mix of cynicism, religious dogma and regret.
This cacophony of spirits move through the sparsely dressed wall-less room created from outlined frames by scenic designer Amanda Ortmayer, who also lights the show excellently.
Appell’s smart dialogue deals with some harsh realities; betrayal, adultery, abortion, sexual infidelity and suicide. Appell is exorcizing a lot of indoctrinated religious baggage here. When Regina meets the bourbon swilling Pope, hilariously played by Stuart Boussel, her past is put into perspective and her soul in re-integrated. This Pope tells the harsh reality; the truth about her alcohol abuse (it’s a concealer of truth) and that self-redemption is her responsibility.
Older Regina sees clearly sees the messy nature of her life, and when her younger self gets the runs thinking about their intended deaths, she says wisely “you think you’re the only one leaving a trail of shit to death’s door”. To the woman who craved forgiveness, fears death and deceived herself, ownership of her life is a saving grace. This grace allows her to step through the door, dragging her younger spirit (Bonel) along with her. Both spirits are united in death and Regina is fully unified.
Performances run June 18 thru July 9, 2016. http://child.bpt.me/ 415.673.3847