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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Theatre and religion dust-up in Alexandria

From left: Patricia Spencer Smith is Margaret, Ashley Amidon is Melissa, and Michael Fisher is Father Murphy in Little Theatre of Alexander's newest show, Savannah Disputation/Photo by Kyle Reardon

It may be religion they're arguing about, but two old ladies, a priest, and a pretty young thing sure do make it funny.
In Savannah Disputation two spinsters live together and the angry one, Mary (Mary Jo Morgan) banishes an missionary evangelist who comes to the door (Ashley Amidon) whom later, the other sister, Margaret (Patricia Spencer Smith) invites in.

To settle some religious questions which Melissa raises and makes Margaret uncomfortable, the Catholic sisters invite their friendly priest (Michael J. Fisher) over for his customary Thursday evening dinner with them, but unbeknownst to him, they invite Melissa, too.

With a conglomeration like this, you were expecting peace in the valley? Not.

What follows is a long and stormy night about religion, who's right, who's wrong, the Bible says this, the Bible says that, scripture this and scripture that. 

Late in the show Mary goes all serious and wants to be ex-communicated (ex-communicated!) about the time the dialogue turns rather preachy.
Compare the two sisters to the "bright young thing" prancing through their doorway in a pretty halter-top dress, sexy shoes, and makeup.  

It's yesterday v. today! (Or, "old" v. "new.")
From left, Mary Jo Morgan is Mary, Michael Fisher is Father Murphy, and Patricia Spencer Smith is Margaret in Little Theatre of Alexander's newest show, Savannah Disputation/Photo by Kyle Reardon

Director Will Jarred steers Mary and Margaret on an excellent path to a nursing home as they shuffle along, moving at half steps, with stooped shoulders, and de rigueur hands on hips. 

Their costuming (by Ms. Amidon) complements their characters in the most fitting ways: slippers, shirttails hanging outside elephant pants, gender-free apparel.

John Burgess designed a full set for the ladies' living room, with half of it decorated like a church with large stained-glass pieces on two walls at the entrance. (All that was missing was a confessional.)

The remainder of their domicile is loaded with collectibles from many years of living, book shelves (housing a liquor stash), antiques, a grandfather clock, an answering machine (in 2019? but it plays a critical role), a mantle, dining room table, etc., etc. 

Just the old-fashioned feel one might expect of two old sisters' living arrangements.

I knew the playwright, Evan Smith, had to have some Catholic blood:  He attended an all-boy prep Catholic military school in Savannah, the locale for the show which really could be Anywhere, Anytime, USA.

Most everything is superb in Savannah: the acting, set, costumes, lighting (Franklin Coleman). The sound director David Correia does a fantastic job with frequent doorbell and phone rings, and messages left.

Eavesdropping on a conversation about religion is possible in Alexandria to leave you laughing and guessing, too.  

And maybe, start your own conversation?

Other Savannah crew members are:

Juli Tarabek Blacker, assistant director

Lynn O'Connell and Kevin O'Dowd, producers

Kira Hogan and Donna Reynolds, stage managers

Maureen Roult, hair and make-up design 

Betty Belanus and Susan Townsend, properties designers

What: The Savannah Disputation

When: Now through May 18, 2019. Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.

Where: Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Tickets: $21 to $24

Rating: "G"

Duration:  90 minutes without intermission

Public transportation: The closest Metro station is King Street, about 13 blocks away. From there, a Dash bus will take you near the theatre.

Parking: On the streets and in many garages nearby. If Capital One Bank at Wilkes and Washington streets is closed, the bank's lot is open to LTA patrons at no charge

For more information: 703-683-0496 or 703-683-5778 or

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