The mood of "Amen Corner" was established the moment we took our seats at the Wurtele Thrust Stage. We can see into the church, and the housing unit below. Someone is lying on the street. People walk by. Kids run, giggle and play. A man is pick-pocketing someone. Then, a cop appears. We feel like we're in a rough neighborhood. This is a glimpse of life in a city, in a place where everyone is doing what they can to survive. Some people turn to crime, to alcohol, and others to extreme religion.
The Amen Corner seems to be the place where people congregate to share their joys and sorrows. Sister Margaret leads in song, in preaching, and in distancing herself from her pain. But, her past resurfaces in the form of her alcoholic husband, the jazz musician who once blew the sweetest notes.
I really wanted this show to be uplifting, and fill me with hope. What it does is show us that we waste a good deal of time running from our pain and coping. That in the end, what matters is relationships and being there for each other. We need to show up, be present, and be honest about what life has dealt.
The actors played realistic roles in hard times. I felt their need to bring out the music of their lives, often sorrowful, to be able to live and connect. We all have a purpose, and we all have pain. "Amen Corner" is a fine example of the Penumbra Theatre's mission statement.
"Amen Corner" is a Penumbra production playing at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis through June 17. (Click over to www.guthrietheater.org for excellent photos, a video clip, tickets and showtimes.)
Also playing at The Guthrie is "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been," a play about Harlem Rennaisance poet Langston Hughes. You can read that review at my writer's blog www.maryaalgaard.blogspot.com. Click on the tab for The Guthrie Theatre Reviews.
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