The New Jersey Repertory Company is starting the new year off right with the world premiere of a remarkable new play. The Calling by Joel Stone was commissioned by NJPAC’s Stage Exchange in Association with the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and the NJRep. It was first introduced at an impressive initial reading at the NJPAC in April, 2017. Even then, there was a sense that the play had unique qualities about it that would deliver on a live stage. Now with it being performed on an well-designed set with two very strong actors, the promise from that reading has been realized. This play delivers a most unexpected series of events keeping its audience guessing until the very last minute of the show. Additionally, the marvelous development of the characters gives theater goers something to ponder as they leave the show.
Evan Bergman provides superb direction to this thriller. The story of The Calling is set in a Catholic church following the funeral of Mrs. Callahan. Father Dan is straightening up after the service when he finds Carl sleeping on one of the pews. They begin to talk and as they do, Carl reveals that he is an ICU nurse who works the night shift at a nearby hospital. Mrs. Callahan was one of his patients and Father Dan is impressed that Carl took time out of his busy life to come to the service. Just why he came to the service becomes the springboard of all the eventual revelations and actions.
Playwright Stone carefully constructs the conversations so that each level of revelation comes out slowly and carefully. This approach allows the layers of the plot to unfold in such a way that the audience on opening day gasped at certain points. That’s how startled they were at several points.
It would not be right to reveal critical turning points in this story. So suffice it to say, just when you think you have it figured out, something else is revealed leading to more information about the characters which in turn feeds the plot. The background and actions of the characters are what makes this play such a thriller to sit through. Both Father Dan and Carl have many sides to them including some good and some very sinister.
“The Calling” demands a lot from the two actors. Both Ames Adamson as Father Dan and Jared Michael Delaney as Carl definitely deliver what is needed to bring these characters to life. As a priest, Mr. Adamson both looks and acts the part. He allows the very human side of the priest to come through which intensifies the action taking place. At first, Mr. Delaney shows the uncertainty bothering Carl with a light flair. This allows a more intense approach as the deeper, more complex part of the character emerges. Not an easy thing to do, but it is well done.
As you watch, you realize these are not people who Mr. Stone decided to create out of nothing. No, they could easily be people right in one’s own community. The play demonstrates how people hide behind facades that relate to the work they do and how the community regards them. And that makes you feel a bit uncomfortable when the truth of what has happened comes out.
This play definitely lives up to the billing that NJ Rep is using: heart-pounding, mind-bending psychological thriller. Your own feelings about what each character does will determine how heart-pounding it is. But it is definitely mind-bending as the psychology of the characters becomes more exposed.
Running Time: approx. 90 minutes; no intermission
Location: New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Long Branch, NJ
Performances: Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm; and Sundays at 2pm, through February 4, 2018
Contact for Info and Tickets: Reservations by phone: 732-229-3166 or online at njrep.org.