Sunday, July 29, 2007
With the exception of some heavy-duty overacting on the part of a few men in the cast, “Sin” is an interesting theatrical experience. Set in San Francisco on the eve of the 1989 earthquake, it is a modern morality play in which a judgmental traffic reporter is forced to deal with the Seven Deadly Sins as represented by various people in her life. It takes an act of God and personal tragedies to help her recognize which of these Sins rules her life.
Megan Hill as Avery is the strongest cast member, which is fortunate since it is her story. Playing a 31-year-old helicopter-flying traffic reporter, "Avery Bly On High," she looks down on the world from her perch in the sky as well as in her perfectionist judgments on other people’s failings.
I also liked Douglas Scott Sorenson as her brother, Gerard, who is dying of AIDS. His gallows humor, and the way he delivers it, are the highlight of the first act.
Wendy MacLeod’s play did what a good play should do -- it got us talking. First at intermission as we tried to think what the Seven Deadly Sins were. (Although I grew up Roman Catholic and sin was definitely overly emphasized in my home and my parochial school, I don’t recall any discussion of just these seven biggies, which for the record are envy, gluttony, lust, wrath, greed, sloth and pride.) Later, we talked about the play during the taxi ride home.
"Sin" was originally developed at Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage and premiered at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in 1995. In a 1994 commentary for the “Chicago Tribune,” the playwright, who describes herself as a lapsed Catholic, wrote about developing a play around the personification of Sins.
“I like the idea that all bad behavior falls into one of the seven recognizable categories, and it was fun writing characters who push the comic envelope of each particular Sin,” MacLeod wrote. “But in rewriting and in rehearsal at the Goodman Theatre, we reminded ourselves that these characters represent real people and must therefore be believable, even understandable. To sin is to be human (although, arguably, to sin egregiously is to be inhuman).
“But if the Sins in the play need to sin a little less, maybe my heroine, Avery, needs to sin a little more. And in the course of one night, the night of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, Avery discovers that the people she dismissed so easily in the first act are more complicated than she thought. The Sins don't change, but Avery's perception of them does.
“Medieval morality plays all ended with a lesson, such as ‘Only good deeds go with you to the grave.’ Everything was black or white. What makes my play a contemporary morality play is that it explores gray. Is sin a sin? Is righteousness right? And in medieval morality plays, God is taken for granted, whereas in my play there is only humanity, and humanity is feeling particularly stranded in the middle of an AIDS epidemic in the middle of an earthquake.”
I wish I had seen this show earlier in its run so I could recommend it to you, as it is definitely worth thinking about. Unfortunately, the Bohemian Archaeology production of “Sin” was to finished its run today at the Abingdon Theatre on West 36th Street.
For information about the company, visit www.BohemianArchaeology.org.