Who is that handsome, brilliant man who calls himself Genesis, and has been committed to a mental institution for believing he is a fallen angel? Is he delusional? Has he been unjustly committed? Is he as dangerous as his fellow inmates try to convince us he is as the play begins? Is he The Devil as the angry Chaplain professes?
Are the patients treated fairly? What is the truth and will we the audience – and his new psychiatrist – put the pieces together, and find the truth? The show’s Web site states that the play also “raises questions at the core of the Christian religion, and points out society’s willful ignorance of the mentally ill so as to avoid the moral quandaries their treatment raises”.
Do we find the answers? Is everything neatly wrapped up at the end? I won’t give it away. What I will tell you is – to paraphrase one of my favorite lines in All About Eve – “Fasten your seatbelts. It‘s going to be a bumpy night”. Throughout Evan Crump’s intelligent and thought-provoking play Genesis, he lures us and bumps us deeper and deeper into the minds, background, and “beliefs” and/or “illness” of Genesis (Derek Jones), two of his fellow “patients” – Shep Donovan (Andrew Wassenich) and Max Wright (Bruce Alan Rauscher), the Chaplain (director John C. Bailey – playing double duty here), and Dr. Jacqueline Cross (Julie Roundtree), who comes to “help” Genesis.
Bailey is blessed with an exceptional cast (including himself). You can’t take your eyes off the tall, muscular Mr. Jones, who brings out the anger, humanity, frustration and gentility of Genesis. It’s an impressive multi-layered performance – very human and at times, simply divine. And listening to Mr. Jones’ eloquent, heavenly voice, I was putty in his hands. He grabbed me and the rest of the audience and never let us go.
As The Chaplain, Mr. Bailey is a spitfire of emotions. As Max, Mr. Rauscher is a scary human time-bomb about to explode, and, as Lucifer, he is a very funny hell-raiser. Ms. Roundtree plays the not-so-self-confident psychiatrist and is the perfect foil for Genesis – or is she? (She also has a cameo as Mary – but not THAT Mary). But the performance that knocked my socks off was the body jerking, angry, guilt-ridden, heart-wrenching performance by Andrew Wassenich, who played Shep Donovan It was a tour-de-force! Mr. Wassenich also plays Revelation (but I won’t reveal who he is).
Special kudos to Bob Gandy for his set and lighting design, sound editor Brian Wilbur Grundstrom (who worked with director Bailey), and to cinematographer and projections editor Bill Coughland for his lightning speed images which constantly bombard your mind and eyes. These images and sounds are the small pieces of the puzzle which help us understand the background of three convicts, the Chaplain and psychiatrist. The images are stimulating, powerful, and fun. With their help, the audience becomes the therapists, detectives, and witnesses. It’s a roller-coaster ride of emotions, so buckle up and take this unforgettable ride.
The Redrum was packed when I saw this brilliant production and word has gotten out that Genesis is a small gem of The Festival. I hope this production is the genesis of great things to come from producers, Unstrung Harpist Production.
Written by Evan Crump
Directed by John C. Bailey
Produced by Bryna Shindell for Unstrung Harpist Productions
Reviewed by Joel Markowitz
Running time: 90 minutes
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?