This review was also published on Apt613.ca
It isn’t often a play staged in a bar takes on the role of Christianity in modern culture. Thus, on the coldest of nights, we settled eagerly into The Mercury Lounge with a glass of wine and the day’s headlines of the Rev. Joe Leclair affair uppermost in our minds to see how the production would address the controversial role of organised religion.
The narrative loosely follows Megan (Megan Piercey Monafu) a young Christian conflicted by her faith. Megan’s concern about the exclusion of homosexuals is further challenged by the punitive behaviour of the Church when she expresses her doubts via social media. Megan tries to establish if an apology from the Church is possible or even meaningful. Alongside this very loose storyline “snapshot” experiences with the church are interjected throughout. Dialogue for Grain of Salt is based on interviews with individuals on the role of Christianity in their lives that were woven together and re-contextualised to create the storyline on stage. This may explain the chaotic nature of many scenes but does nothing to change that this detracts from the possibility of any coherent central theme.
With its hectic staging Grain of Salt fails to tackle the rich topic of theology in a meaningful or cohesive fashion. The production never fully or significantly engages with controversies restrained by a sophomoric approach to Christianity as Good vs Evil. The contradiction between the church’s message and its action, tackling the worst offences or even exploring the grey area of declining church membership in the face of the growth markets in “alternative spirituality” are never embarked upon – it’s a missed opportunity. When controversial topics such as child-abuse, wars and abortion arise they are covered in a checklist-like manner to make Megan’s personal struggle pale in comparison.
Several scenes stand-out as successful – the metro ride enactment , the coffee shop and the game-show “You’re not getting in” demonstrate sparks of unique talent as well as highlight the need for this production to sharply edit itself down to the scenes that work. The play would be stronger as a streamlined two-hander with Megan and her friend(Mitchel Rose) taking on the multiple “snapshots” roles; especially with the long pauses, communion scenes, prayer circles and songs edited out.
A great topic, some entertaining moments but a production that despite efforts left us, much like the weather outside, cold.
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