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Take "AVOW"-Now at Bloomfield's Westminster Arts Center
by Sherri Rase | >> see bio
photo by TomSchopper
AVOW cast
4th Wall Theatre presents Bill C. Davis' "AVOW" at Westminster Arts Center in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and it's slightly inaccurately named - this particular production should be called "A-WOW"!

Thank goodness for the traditions of faith in which we are raised. Without these traditions, we'd have nothing to question. Oh, wait-you're Catholic? Then you'd best not question at all! This is the play for gay, straight, questioning and all loving people. Faith gets stronger with questions but it takes a lot of courage to challenge the convictions of your community and your loved ones.

The recipe for success, as any great director-like Gwen Ricks-Spencer-will tell you is to start with a great script. These are hard enough to find and even more rare when fresh. Add a clever and experienced cast, a soupçon of talented technical staff, heat to bright intensity and you have a solid dish, consisting of the opposite of comfort food-it's a thought provoking frittata of spirituality, crises of faith and the bittersweet savor of star crossed lovers.

The plot is twisted from the beginning. Boy meets boy. They meet a priest whose views speak to them and ask him to marry them. The merriment begins where Davis starts playing us lapsed Catholics like harp strings. The many shots crossing the bow this way and that way pierce everyone. With the combined weight of expectations on both sons, daughters, Fathers and parishioners, how do we manage to stand upright through our lives?

Bob Cline as Brian and Gus Ibranyi as Tom are the perfect couple, until their cherished Father Raymond-Matt Burns-plants the seeds of doubt in their mind at the point where they should feel most happy, together. Enter Irene.

Kym Frank's Irene is Brian's sister, a concert-level pianist, who is also an accessory to adultery. The scarlet woman has a heart, remorse and a fetus to show for her-what? Indiscretion? Sojourn into love? Is she the wicked "other woman" or a spurned lover? She has determined to keep the baby and give the child to her brother Brian and Tom to raise. She's fiercely loyal and loving-a tigress on the side of her family, but cowed by her indomitable mother Rose, played winningly by Melissa Surow Hathaway. Rose's confessor, Father Nash, played by Michael Craig, is also Father Raymond's confessor. Nash possesses the wisdom of Solomon and the art of Socrates, as gentle questions show that each person actually knows his/her own mind, but just needs to hear confirmation from others. Hmmmm.

Father Raymond's foil and sounding board is Julie, the doyenne of the Rectory, played by Kate Daly. Homespun, pithy wisdom is Julie's specialty along with favorites that aid contemplation, peach cobbler and apple brown betty. Daly, Frank, Craig and Hathaway have all trod the boards many times before, but are making their debuts for 4th Wall Theatre with "AVOW."

This is a poignant story that could be ripped from the pages of today's headlines, or tomorrow's. And gender is not important. It's love that speaks when the heart does the listening.

The lighting and sets, by Ricks-Spencer and Bruce McCandless, respectively, clearly delineate highly separate playing areas in a large shaped stage. Matt Burns' sound design orchestrates emotion and sends you out into the world with a lot to think about. "AVOW" is a great inspiration to make change in the world-let's start now.

"AVOW" is must-see theatre. No matter which show you see, it's a winner! Performances are on April 2, 3 and 4 at 8 p.m. Special bonus: there will be a talkback with playwright Davis after the April 4 performance. Tickets, at $15 for general admission, $12 for students and seniors, are available online at http://www.4thwalltheatre.org/tickets.htm, or by calling 973/748-9008, ext 279. The Westminster Arts Center is located at Franklin and Fremont Streets in Bloomfield NJ.


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