Red Light District
By EDMUND DE SANTIS
The Lion Theatre, 410 W. 42 St., NYC
October 6 – 21, 2006
Directed by MARC GELLER
Lighting Design FRANK DenDANTO III
Costume Design DENNIS BALLARD
Set Design AARON MASTIN
Stage Manager CHRISTY THEDE
Press Representative KPM ASSOCIATES
Father Calvin Porter – Stephen Hope
Agnes Sabatino – Lucy McMichael
Lorenzo Sabatino – Brandon Ruckdashel
Playwright Edmund De Santis (no relation to the reviewer) puts a new spin on the Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse scenario in the dramatic and graphic ASCENSION.
As the play opens, the exceedingly odd Agnes Sabatino turns a meeting about catering an event into an opportunity to accuse Father Porter of having molested her now adult son, Lorenzo, some eight years earlier. She has not come for apologies, or even to take legal action, however. Ms. Sabatino, it seems, is an unlikely extortionist. Where ASCENSION becomes interesting is when Lorenzo makes his first appearance. Oozing sexuality and an oddly boyish appeal, and bearing a deliberate similarity to the image of Jesus on the cross that marks the center of the intimate set, it is no surprise that tensions are high.
Where the surprises do arise in ASCENSION come from the playwright’s formulation of a situation that is morally ambiguous based on the very nature of the characters he has created. Is the man-child Lorenzo guilty of seducing the priest he once served as an alter boy for, or is he merely reliving events of the past? Is Agnes an abused woman, a woman who is trying to kill her son, or merely mentally ill and off her medication? Finally there is Father Porter. Having succumbed to temptation, will he now go down a path toward evil and abuse of power? Much, if not all of this play is ultimately left open to speculation.
There is some nudity, as well as the obviously charged atmosphere of a priest engaging in sexual activities during the course of ASCENSION that might be beyond some theater-goers threshold, but this tightly wound play unfolds quite smoothly over each of the 40 minute acts. I could have done with a touch more clarity, and a lighter hand on the more horror film theatrics that mark a few scenes, but an interesting enterprise nonetheless.
- Kessa De Santis -