As much as Americans are obsessed with capital and material gain, there is a silent army of every hue and shade that keeps our communities going. Volunteers. Without them charities, scout groups, conventions, homeowners associations, schools and churches would fail. In most cases volunteers are the bedrock of community within our hyper-connected-disconnected society.
Ken Walsh’s, The Unsanctioned Minutes from Saint Lucy’s Quaternitarian Church Council’s Last Meeting (aka St Lucy’s) is a hilariously wry look at this very circumstance. What happens when a group of volunteers uncovers a series of mysteries, omens, phenomena, that pique the preternatural curiosities of the irrepressible yet indispensable church busybody? What are the strange apparitions in the baptismal font? And where-oh-where has the statue of St. Lucy gone?
In the last few weeks the production of St Lucy’s garnered a fair amount of press and social media attention, since the original staging company, Switchyard Theatre, went on hiatus. Without a home, the cast and crew sought help from the local community which responded in spades to the call for aid. Mettlesome provided the show venue at their brand new space in Golden Belt, Durham. Justice Theatre Project provided very generous publicity and ticketing. The Hayti Heritage Center provided much needed rehearsal space. A volunteer-led community coming together, uniting.
Which brings us back to the well-woven plot of St Lucy’s itself and its ensemble of mismatched but thoroughly lovable church council members. In a short interview with Walsh he explained that the original concept came from the notion of when a volunteer leaves a community they have been intimately involved with for years; maybe even decades. After 17 iterations since 2017, Walsh’s script delivers a deftly layered story that carries bold arcs for the five protagonists in the course of a laugh-filled 80 minutes.
Walsh goes on to say: “I’m happy with the performances, [the cast and crew] have put a lot of work into this. There have been a lot of challenges and things like that, but I’m really happy with [director Mia Peters] and her vision and what she’s done with the production.”
He has every right to be. If it wasn’t clear already: go see this show. It is well worth the time and money spent, to delight in the exuberant performances of the five players on stage. Co-producer Kelly Caniglia informed us that almost a full two weeks of rehearsals were missed as a result of the separation from Switchyard Theatre. Despite this, the ensemble and director Peters manage to convey the sparkle from this rapid-fire script. Walsh’s comedic timing and pacing keeps the audience gripping this rollercoaster speeding from one gag to the next. An early example of this is the bizarre exchange as Katey (Emily Chiola) and Rita (Elaine Quagliata) explain to a bewildered Violet (Nicola Leffler) how they managed to combine Sunday School with soccer — resulting in the Davids and Goliaths. Later on the fumbling flirtations of Ellie (J. Ra’Chel Fowler) and Reverend Parker (played by the aptly named Michael Parker) provide a running joke of behind-the-scenes shenanigans.
As a debut production of this script, the company of St. Lucy’s have acquitted themselves well. When you add into that some of the production trials they have encountered, this is truly an effort worth celebrating. Walsh is “more than willing to have other companies pick [the play] up,” No doubt this script will go far. We look forward to the future adventures of St Lucy’s and indeed of all who have been involved in this wonderful production.
The Unsanctioned Minutes from Saint Lucy’s Quaternitarian Church Council’s Last Meeting (aka St Lucy’s) runs through Sunday at Mettlesome in Durham. For more information visit http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/theunsanctionedminutes/.