I have written in the past in The White Rhino Report about how blessed we are in the Boston area to have such a rich and wide assortment of resident theater companies. Adding to that already robust list is a new company formed this year: Hub Theatre Company. They are currently presenting their third production: "Goodly Creatures," written by New England playwright, William Gibson and Directed by John Geoffrion.
The play is rich in historical exposition, telling the story of the struggle among Governor Winthrop, the local Boston clergy and the pious lay leader, Anne Hutchinson. In the Director's notes in the program, Mr. Gibson is described as a typical "Yankee" playwright. He is indeed that: direct,sparse, historically grounded and strongly opinionated. Clearly, the author wants the audience to sympathize with the character of Anne Hutchinson, and to excoriate the rigid and hypocritical clergy - the Right Reverends and Wrong Reverends who have been ordained to lead the Massachusetts Bay Colony in matters of faith.
The play treats very clearly with the shades of gray that exist theologically between a view of the Christian faith as grounded in the Old Testament and the rigid Law, or leaning more toward the New Testament emphasis on Grace. In much the same way that in "Les Miserables" Javert personifies the Law and Jean Valjean Grace, so in this play the Clergy and Governor Winthrop are emblematic of the Law and Anne Hutchinson is a beacon of Grace.
This production is set in Boston's historic First Church on Marlborough Street. This congregation is a direct descendant of the congregation depicted in the play. I learned a great deal of Boston history that I had not previously been aware of.
Leading the cast is the extraordinarily gifted Nancy Finn as Anne Hutchinson. Whenever Ms. Finn is on stage, there is a glow that emanates from her character, whether or not she stands in a literal spotlight. She is conducting a masterclass in acting. Because the performance space is intimate and the audience is very close to the actors, she very appropriately modulates her tone and volume of speaking to convey the right emotion without overwhelming the audience with too much intensity or too many decibels.
Also standing out among the cast are the following:
- Phil Thompson as Governor Winthrop
- Jack Schultz as Rev. Cotton, Anne's one time teacher and eventual ex-communicator
- Robert Orzalli as Rev. Wilson, the splenetic and stuttering Pharisee and Anne's bete noire
- Morgan Bernhard as Governor Vane
- Brashani Reece as Mary, a woman whose stillborn child delivered at the hands of midwife Anne leads to charges of witchcraft and God's judgment.
As with any new theater company, this production is not without its growing pains. I have already mentioned the excellent work by many of the actors. Some of the lesser characters and the younger actors who portrayed them could have used a stronger hand by the director. There were too many examples of bombastic shouting totally out of proportion to the size of the performance space. Several of the characters were portrayed as pure black and white - with no range of emotion or variety of facial expression. But these are minor quibbles.
The overall effect of the play is strong and positive. I recommend it to anyone who loves good theater, appreciates Boston history, and wants to support the arts. The play runs through October 6.
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First Church in Boston
66 Marlborough St, Boston MA
Take any Green Line train to Arlington or Copley - the church is on the corner of Marlborough and Berkeley Sts
The First Church is fully handicapped accessible.
Hub Theatre Boston Website