Monday, April 25, 2016

Jesus Hates Me

Charlene Baldridge
Photo by Ken Howard
Don’t miss this

Wayne Lemon’s Jesus Hates Me, which opened April 23 at ion theatre, is a knockout comedy noir. The knockout punches are the writing and the expert co-direction of Glenn Paris and Claudio Raygoza and, in equal part, the great casting, acting and design – in other words, just about everything.

Lemon’s first play, premiered in 2009, Jesus Hates Me plays through May 23 in ion’s intimate Elaine Lipinsky Stage at 6th and Pennsylvania in Hillcrest. The plot concerns a group of quirky residents in a small, present-day West Texas town. The matriarch, Annie (Liesel Gorrell-Getz), is certifiably nuts and growing more so, much to the consternation of her 25-year-old son Ethan (Connor Sullivan), a “stranger in his own life,” who still lives with her. Ethan hopes to escape to Colorado, where he’s been offered a job as a ski and horseback riding instructor. Never mind he knows nothing about either. It’s an escape.

The others are Ethan’s best friend, the truth-teller Trane (Laurence Brown), the only black deputy sheriff in Texas; Lizzy (Dana Fares), who owns the local watering hole and is unrequitedly in love with Ethan; Lizzy’s brother Georgie (Charlie Gange), who blew out his larynx in a suicide attempt; and Boone (Richard Johnson), the very model of a ne’er-do-well, whose misguided attempts to ingratiate himself with the others leads repeatedly to hilarious chaos.
The Company
Sullivan, Fares, Johnson,
Brown, Gorrell-Getz and Gange
Courtesy ion theatre

Annie and Ethan operate The Blood of the Lamb Miniature Golf Course. The crucified Christ Jesus presides over the 17th hole. When you achieve the cup, the life-size effigy lights up.

The characters are divinely inspired; the actors, superb. Gorrell-Getz, a known quantity, is marvelous, without over-emoting perfectly portraying Annie’s condition and even, at the 11th hour, suggesting the possible causes of it. It’s great performance of a meticulously written role. From several quarters, I’d heard about Sullivan and even witnessed him in small roles around town. But now, at ion, his prowess is matched by a worthy role. He is one of most natural actors I’ve ever seen and is handsome to boot, though I must say Johnson, also a fine actor, has a most attractive physique as well. (I couldn’t help but notice, having witnessed the protracted scene the two play in their Jockeys.)

Connor Sullivan as Ethan
Photo courtesy ion theatre
Raygoza is responsible for scenic, sound and lighting design, and Mary Summerday for costumes. This is a detailed and fascinating production, what with the miniature golf course, an Airstream travel-trailer, and the bar, each seemingly whole and filled with detritus and human beings hoping for hope and some chance of escape or at least survival.

Don’t miss it. Tickets at or 619-600-5020

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