Gabriel: A Polemic
The Drilling Company
North of History
March 10, 2018
|Photo courtesy of The Drilling Company|
In her play, Gabriel: A Polemic, playwright C. Denby Swanson exuberantly explores the concept of free will. The Drilling Company production, now running at North of History, invites the audience into Ms. Swanson’s well developed debate by gathering us around the dinner table with the characters. The intimate setting, honest performances, and precise direction beautifully blend to make a highly engaging experience. Director Hamilton Clancy builds the conflicts in Ms. Swanson’s skillful writing with the volatility, faith, and genuine affection that the characters have within their hearts.
Susan (played by Jane Bradley) invites her sisters in faith, Brenda (played by Rachel A. Collins) and Jennifer (played by Brandi Varnell), to Christian Sabbath dinner. Her topic for discussion is free will. More specifically: Did the Virgin Mary have free will when Angel Gabriel announced to her she was with child? Jennifer adamantly quotes the bible to answer Susan’s question. Brenda has a naive faith in Jennifer’s citations. Susan is clearly experiencing a crisis of faith. Six month earlier, she had a miscarriage and continually brings up the hurtful fact that all three of them are unable to bear children. When Louise (played by Elaine Ivy Harris) arrives, who has been absent from their sisterhood for a number of months, she is pregnant and unmarried. The four women face their fears, doubts, and resentments as their debate gets personal and heated.
|Jane Bradley, Brandi Varnell, Rachel A. Collins, & Elaine Ivy Harris|
Photo courtesy of The Drilling Company
Jane Bradley portrays Susan with a dexterous balance of cynicism and hope. Her actions are fueled by a deep longing for support, understanding, and forgiveness. The reveal of the specific cause of her crisis is genuine and heartbreaking. Elaine Ivy Harris is honest and open as Louise. She is vulnerable in her opening monologue, then skillfully transitions her demeanor when confronted by her sisters at the dinner table. This creates a clear and emotional arc for her character. Brandi Varnell’s Jennifer is resolute and impassioned. She vehemently takes on Susan’s challenge and has no trouble judging Louise’s situation. Ms. Varnell takes the character to her breaking point. She finally waivers, but never fully relinquishes her point of view. Rachel A. Collins’ portrayal of Brenda is fresh and trusting. When the character finally breaks out of her passive exterior toward the end of the play, we see the depth of her optimism, dedication, and true belief.
|Playwright C. Denby Swanson|
Photo courtesy of C. Denby Swanson
C. Denby Swanson wrote four extraordinary characters. They are intelligent, zealous, and complex. Mr. Clancy keeps the action focused so you can appreciate the polemic (a passionate, strongly worded, and often controversial argument) from all sides. Gabriel: A Polemic is playing through March 26 at North of History (445 Columbus Ave., between 81st and 82nd St., NYC). Get your tickets on smarttix and be prepared to have your point of view challenged.