by Beki Pineda

HEROES OF THE FOURTH TURNING – Written by Will Arbery; Directed by Kent Thompson. Produced by Curious Theatre Company (1080 Acoma, Denver) through October 15. Tickets available at 303-623-0524 or CuriousTheatre.org.

There is an importance in being earnest and this group is nothing if not earnest. A group of ex-classmates have gathered to honor their mentor from their school days who has been promoted to President of the university they all attended. They share the ultra-conservative Catholic-based beliefs they have been taught. This means, of course, anti-Pro Choice, anti-gay marriage, and anti-Obama/Pro-Trump (although they avoided the whole election denier issue).

Teresa (Nailia Antweiler) is the most forthright and arrogant in her beliefs. She confidently and joyfully explains a prevalent (but disproved) belief in a cyclical pattern to human nature. She expounds that history repeats itself every eighty years. The first twenty years (or turning) is a period of HIGH or the development of a New Idea to improve on the past. This is followed by the AWAKENING, a period of exploration and rebellion against the New Order. Then comes the UNRAVELING during which new individuals begin to create new ideas. Finally, the last twenty years leads to CRISIS during which the “heroes” are found who will correct the errors of the past and lead the world into a period of rebirth and prosperity. It seems very clear that she believes she could be one of these heroes and is just waiting for her turning. While Teresa spouts her fully baked but illogical arguments, she also disallows anyone else a more moderate view. Emily (Adeline Mann) is shot down and made to feel traitorous for her fondness for an acquaintance who just happens to be a drag queen.

Kevin (Sean Scutchins) is ridiculed for his inability to hold his booze and his indecision about the beliefs that the others espouse so easily. In innocence but with sincerity, he asks “Why the heck do we have to love the Virgin Mary?” He ponders why they can’t convert by befriending “the enemy” instead of hating and avoiding them. Justin (Lance Rasmussen) in whose back yard the group has gathered, seems the most laid back (although he has a starling hunting scene at the top of the show). He has a somewhat secret agenda that, while hinted, never comes to fruition. Emily is suffering from a mysterious illness that leaves her weak and in pain.

Then Gina (Tammy Meneghini), the newly appointed President of the university, arrives and, while showing affection for her daughter and former students, seems shocked and confused by how they have distorted her teachings. While the evening started out as US against THEM (the liberal left), it devolves into US versus the other US (Republicans who are less judgmental). Teresa, who idolizes her mentor so much she even dresses like her, is stunned and shocked by the remarks addressed to her and her faulty thinking.

The cast seems to temporarily put aside their personal beliefs to speak these words and tell this story. The audience is left to ponder what it must be like for die-heart Republicans to sit through a more “normal” contemporary play or stand-up comedy routine that does not shine the same flattering light on Trump and conservative beliefs. Although Kevin admitted that, while he voted for Trump, he threw up right afterward.

Emily’s pain is palpable; Justin’s affection is honest; Teresa is an outrage machine and Kevin is spectacularly drunk. I don’t know what Sean held in his mouth for several minutes to simulate vomiting on stage, but from the first row, it smelled authentic. That’s real commitment!! But the cast did make the point that it is possible for people to allow “two competing facts {to} exist in the same space” and still remain friends. Isn’t that what all of us have been trying to promote all along?

A WOW factor of 8.5!!

 

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