— Photo by Ron Reed. Pictured L-R: Katherine Gauthier and Rebecca deBoer.
100 SAINTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Pacific Theatre operates out of a church basement and, as a Christian company, has a mandate “to explore the spiritual aspects of human experience.” Its season-ending show, 100 Saints You Should Know by American playwright Kate Fodor, suffers from heavy-handed writing and a little too much preaching. But it contains some rich ideas about human experience, characters you can care about, and a few terrific performances. I’ll take that combination almost every time.
Theresa (Rebecca deBoer) is a single mother who cleans houses to support herself and her smart, obnoxious, troubled teenage daughter Abby (Katherine Gauthier). About the nicest thing Abby will say to her mother is, “I’m not mad at you. I hate you.” Something is missing in both their lives—the fact that Theresa’s parents teach logic at university might give you a clue what it is—and for answers they look to a young priest, Father Matt (Joel Stephanson). But Matt is having his own crisis of faith. He reads long passages to his rather unsympathetic Irish mother, Colleen (Kerri Norris), from his favourite book, a 16th century mystical poem called Dark Night of the Soul.
The characters and their problems are brought together in an unexpected way by Garrett (Chris Lam), another troubled teen and lost soul. All of them except Colleen, who is firm in her faith, are looking for something to fill the void, some way to feel good about themselves and give their lives meaning.
Despite her tendency to excessively underline certain themes, Fodor can write. And it definitely helps that director Anthony F. Ingram coaxes sensational performances from his two youngest actors. Abby is a well-crafted version of the creature that so many sweet little daughters turn into for a few years in their adolescence, and Gauthier absolutely nails the character. She’s angry, articulate and nasty, says exactly what she thinks, and desperately wants to be better than she is. Lam’s funny, sad Garrett, nerdy and deliciously quirky, brings out the best and worst in Abby.
The mother-daughter scenes are excellent, and deBoer brings a lovely calm quality to Theresa, who puts up with a lot of crap from her daughter but has a deep capacity for empathy. Her sudden appetite for religion seems contrived, but her brief offering of physical comfort to Father Matt (no, it’s not sex) is one of the play’s nicest moments.
Theresa wants to experience “a surge of the heart,” and at its best that’s what this play delivers.