With the cadence of a Pentecostal pastor, Tommy Nugent hardly comes up for air in Preacherman, the one-man performance which opened yesterday afternoon at the Capital Fringe Festival.
Clad in carpenter jeans and a well-worn navy blue t-shirt, Nugent abandons the all-black garb you’d expect of a man who performs dramatic monologues in a vacant industrial spaces. But it’s clear he has no pretensions. He’s not there to convince anybody of anything.
Instead, he’s there to connect – and he does so by disarming viewers with his affability and affecting them with his charm. In a mere 60 minutes, he tells about his lifelong religious transformation in a story that is equal parts stand-up comedy and spiritual testimonial.
Nugent’s story begins in the Assembly of God church, where he was raised and later ordained a preacher. He captivates the crowd by describing what it feels like to speak in tongues; he discusses the religious revivals that satisfied his desire for an emotional release.
To everyone watching the emotion that washes over his face, it’s clear that the ministry tapped into his much deeper desire to help the world around him. This desire is so potent throughout his performance that he leaves viewers questioning whether they are watching an artistic monologue or listening to a sermon that, deep down, they really wanted to hear.
Nugent holds nothing back in narrating the unexpected turn of events that followed his abandonment of Christianity. He describes his harrowing journey with humor. And, using nothing but rich language and well-timed lighting effects, he dramatizes an arduous spiritual journey that ended with the the simple realization that, as he says, this life is “enough.”
After watching Preacherman you’ll want to tell everyone the good news. Please, don’t miss this performance.
Preacherman has 4 more performances at Wonderbox, 629 New York Avenue, Washington, DC.