‘The Calling’ is a Remarkable New Play

Ames Adamson and Jared Michael Delaney in a scene from “The Calling,” a world premiere by Joel Stone playing at NJ Rep Photo credit: SuzAnne Barabas

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.

Additional Information

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.

‘Mad Love’

Jared Michael Delaney and Brittany Proia in 'Mad Love'. Photo credit: SuzAnne Barabas
Jared Michael Delaney and Brittany Proia in ‘Mad Love’.
Photo credit: SuzAnne Barabas

Mad Love is a new comedy that opened last weekend at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, NJ. Playwright Marisa Smith has produced a contemporary, edgy, funny play about Brandon who is sort of dating Sloane, but neither will commit to a serious relationship. Mad Love was the first new play produced at the new Northern Stage/Barrette Center in White River Junction, Vermont where it was directed by Maggie Burrows. The play was an O’Neill Playwright’s Conference semi-finalist and won Best Play (2012) from NH in Portland Stages’ (Maine) Clauder Competition.

This production marks the return to the NJ Rep for Playwright Marisa Smith whose play Saving Kitty was produced by New Jersey Rep in 2013 and in the summer of 2015. Marisa is an associate artist at the Lark Play Development Center, an artist in residence at the Hermitage Artists Retreat on Manasota Key, Florida for 2015-17 and an artist at the Marble House Project in Dorset, Vermont for the fall of 2016. She has developed work at the Lark, the Theresa Rebeck Writer’s Colony, The University of Delaware Professional Repertory Company, at the Dorset Theater Festival, Dartmouth College and at the Williamstown Theater Festival. In 2017 Sex and Other Disturbances will be produced in Melbourne, Australia, directed by Nadia Tass.

Evan Bergman is the Director for Mad Love. He most recently directed the world premiere of A Better Place by Wendy Becket at the Duke Theater in New York. He also directed the world premiere of the long running New York and Los Angeles production of The Director starring John Shea. He has directed a number of productions for NJ Rep including Marisa Smith’s Saving Kitty, A View of the Mountains by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award nominee Lee Blessing, and The M Spot by Michael Tucker, starring Emmy Award winner Jill Ekinberry.

Press notes describe the play in the following manner:

Sloane Hudson, a wealthy, beautiful recent Ivy League graduate and product of the campus hook-up culture and frat basement pong tournaments, doesn’t believe in love or marriage. She does, however, believe in babies and wants one soon so her tummy can bounce back and she can still wear a bikini. The problem is she needs a sperm donor who passes muster. Enter Brandon, who has all the right stats, but the wrong attitude. Brandon, meantime, has enough on his plate living with his brother Doug, who just fell in love with Katerina, the hooker from the Ukraine. Cabbage soup, a rare baseball card and a lizard named Pogo all play a part in this romantic comedy for cynical times.

The cast includes the following:

Making his debut at the NJ Rep is Jared Michael Delaney who plays the role of Doug. Jared is the cofounder and Associate Artistic Director of Revolution Shakespeare. He has appeared in productions at 59E59 and at a number of regional theaters. He also is a playwright whose first full-length play, The Hand of Gaul, was produced in 2013 at Inis Nua Theatre.

Also making an NJ Rep debut is Brittany Proia in the role of Katerina. An actor and songwriter from Olney, MD, she has appeared in regional theater and performed in productions of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (The Night Shift), Breadcrumbs (Urbanite Theatre), and the Taming of the Shrew (Nebraska Shakespeare) in addition to other work with theater companies.

Playing the role of Brandon is Graham Techlet who is an actor and writer from Boston but based in New York. His recent credits include: Song For A Future Generation and Jonah, A Musical Detour (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Gutenberg! The Musical! (Basement Arts), and Stupid F**king Bird (University Productions). His plays include Nantucket Sleighride (Beckwith Theatre, 2015), The Kid Cult Cosmology (Playfest), and Like Henry the Sixth But Cool.

Alex Trow plays the part of Sloane. She has appeared off-Broadway in London Wall (Mint Theater), Flamingo (Sanguine Theater Co.), Straight (u/s, Acorn Theater Off-Broadway), and Scarlett Fever (NY Fringe Fest). Regionally, she has appeared in Mad Love (Northern Stage, world premiere), Owners (Yale Rep), and Othello (Shakespeare Santa Cruz).

About the Show:

Playwright: Marisa Smith

Director: Evan Bergman

Production Team: Jessica Parks (Set Design), Brian Snyder (Technical Director,) Jill Nagle (Lighting Design), Merek Royce Press (Sound Design), Patricia E. Doherty (Costume Design), and Jennifer Tardibuono (Stage Manager).

Location: New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ

Performances: October 20 – November 20, 2016 on Thursdays and Fridays 8:00 pm; Saturdays 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm.

Contact for Info and Tickets: The New Jersey Repertory Company website at www.njrep.org or by calling 732-229-3166.

Additional Information: Discounts available to groups of 10+