The other night I went with my playgoing friends to see The Savannah Disputation, by Evan Smith. As I mentioned a few months ago, we have been regular attendants at one of our two large local theaters, the Huntington Theater Company, and have been dismayed by the hash of expensively produced mediocre-to-bad new plays, and respectful treatments of classics that we have been served.
So far, going to the SpeakEasy Stage Company has been a great decision: this play was crisply written, funny , and even profound. Which is to say, it was not an embarrassment. Going to the Huntington Theater was often just plain embarrassing.
The setup of The Savannah Disputation sounds kid of sitcommy, perhaps unavoidable in a world where TV has sucked up all the best talent, and has the resources to relentlessly explore every even vaguely realistic narrative form: two older Catholic sisters, one grumpy, one sweet, are visited by a perky Evangelical missionary, find themselves unable to justify their faith against her relentless talking points, and so drop a priest friend into a theological cage match without warning him.
This isn’t one of those “stories about nuns” Catholic plays (quite popular in Catholic Boston). This is a genuinely funny examination of what we base our faith on, and how we all use facts to bolster what we already believe. There is real loneliness, real desire for connection, and real fear of death under the humor.
I don’t know who Evan Smith is, and there is little about him online. He doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. No web site.
Evan Smith is a throwback, in other words: a literate younger person (I think he’s in his 30s) who actually enjoys writing plays and, what’s more, is good at it, quite unlike the majority of new playwrights produced by the Huntington Theater Company.
Through October 17 here in Boston, but it seems to fairly popular in various places: a one-set four hander with two good roles for older women, one for an older man, and one for a younger woman, and so easy to put on.