Arts, Featured

“Church and State” Takes on Difficult Topics With an Infusion of Laughter

Part of the set of “Church and State” the humorous political play that came to Seward this past weekend. Photo: Ella Wright.
by Brian Wright for Seward City News-

The controversial politics of God and guns entered a new venue in Seward this past weekend as a one-set theatrical production entitled “Church and State.”

“Church and State” tells the story of Charles Whitmore, an incumbent republican senator from North Carolina who is in the heat of a re-election campaign when a shooting at an elementary school causes him to question his faith, his political position, and his party platform. The play employs a veil of comedy that encourages audience members to laugh while simultaneously opening a dialogue on some of the most relevant and poignant issues facing our country today.

This play was written by Jason Odell Williams of Columbia, Maryland and celebrated critically acclaimed runs in venues from Los Angeles to New York. It was nominated for Best New Play by the Off-Broadway Alliance. The Anchorage-based production, which was brought to the Rae Building in Seward by the Seward Arts Council, was performed by RKP Theater Productions.

“Here is a compelling political play that deals in heavy topics but treats them with a light hand,” notes play director Richard Reichman in the program. The core of “Church and State” interrogates two predominant ideas: the notion of gun control legislation as a solution to gun violence, and why God would allow such attacks to happen to innocent people.

“Church and State” director with two cast members. From L to R: Director Richard Reichman, Skyler Davis, Mark Stoneburner. Photo: Steve Fink.

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During the course of the action, Whitmore’s conflicted inner debate is personified by his conservative, strongly religious wife (played by Linnea Hollingsworth of Seward) and his liberal, Jewish campaign manager (Danielle Rabinovich). Yet, despite the serious nature of this discourse, laughter was the most apparent audience reaction. The onstage humor generated by the witty and occasionally silly banter from these opposing forces blunts the cutting edge of the otherwise heavy nature of the content.

Not only does the play function to open dialogue between diametrically opposed political forces, but a literal dialogue came at the play’s conclusion. Audience members, cast and Reichman engaged in a productive and largely non-emotional discussion of the issues raised in the course of the play. Many productive and valid points were examined during the nearly hour-long open debate, yet the cool-headed and multifaceted array of opinions challenged the stereotype of extreme polarization often portrayed in media coverage of the topic.

Though many might flinch from a drama that thrusts itself into such an emotional national conversation, “Church and State” successfully navigates these treacherous political waters and emerges, no matter what your political viewpoint, as an entertaining and thoughtful exploration of topics that are more relevant today than ever.

You can view upcoming performances by RKP Productions on their Facebook page.

 

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