“Messiah on the Frigidaire” Graces Little Theatre of Walla Walla with Comedy, Intrigue
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Utilizing strong language, subtle adult content and commentary on religious chicanery, John Culbertson’s play “Messiah on the Frigidaire,” as performed by the Little Theatre of Walla Walla, takes its odd, quirky premise and makes it into a lesson about faith and love.
The Little Theatre’s charming and witty production opened Friday, March 24.
Set in a trailer park in Elroy, South Carolina, the dramatic comedy follows a woman named Lou Ann Hightower as she grapples with her fading marriage, deteriorating faith and unsatisfying working class life. Things take a turn, however, when a mishap results in the image of Jesus projected on the fridge which sits on her front porch. With continuous advice from her closest friend, Betsy Gridley and extensive efforts by her husband, Dwayne Hightower, to profit from this miracle projection of Jesus, Lou Ann learns several life-lessons about genuine love and friendship. As thousands flock to see this depiction of Jesus, the chaos and absurdness which ensues in the yard of the Hightowers’ trailer home is interjected by earnest moments that encompass the overarching message; that “perhaps everything that claims to be God, isn’t. And some things that look nothing like God, are.”
The cast’s cohesiveness was evident throughout the play as the small cast of eight performed with raw emotion, and their interactions are depicted with natural authenticity. Sydney Boyd, who played Lou Ann, has performed at The Little Theatre for several years and found the solidarity among the cast members to be the foundation for the show’s success.
“It’s [a] total family,” Boyd said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cast this dedicated to their part. We’re invested.”
Directors Carol Anselmo and Al Chang echo this statement. As their seventh production together, “Messiah on the Frigidaire” has been as successful as they had hoped. Just like Boyd, they owe this to the cohesiveness of the cast.
“This cast has enormous chemistry,” Anselmo said. “The whole ensemble is very close and they just get each other, they get the play.”
Although abundant, the comedic moments are sometimes pierced with moments of seriousness that bring to light intense, heartfelt messages. Anselmo emphasizes the importance of both light-hearted and weighty moments in conveying authentic emotion to the audience.
“The play can’t just be silly,” Anselmo said. “The laughs, the humor and the pathos of the play come from the characters and they have to be real.”
“Messiah on the Frigidaire” maintains a perfect balance of tasteful and shocking humor. As the audience constantly burst out in laughter, it was clear how the tastefully executed comedy both entertained and captivated the audience.
“[Comedy] is a lot harder than you would expect, but it is more satisfying in the end,” Chang said. “I love people to feel.”
With the obvious challenges that accompany comedic performances, this passionate group of actors and directors made any difficulties they may have experienced undetectable.
“To a certain extent this show was easy because everyone involved put themselves in it,” Chang said. “It’s to the credit of all the actors that it was very easy. The changes we had to make were minor.”
The show runs Friday April 7 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 9 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets for “Messiah on the Frigidaire” can be purchased through the Little Theatre’s website.