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Theater Review:

Cast has the story covered

November 28, 2009|By Dink O’Neal

There’s some foot-stompin’, old time religion on display as Burbank’s Theatre Banshee hosts the Los Angeles premiere of “Tent Meeting.”

Director Rebecca Wackler, also one of this piece’s authors, demonstrates her insight into the material with a seamless production.

Set in 1946, the play chronicles the travels of the Rev. Edward O. Tarbox, a traveling preacher, and his two rather mixed-up, adult-aged children, from Arkansas to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

A curiosity-piquing story to be sure, especially when you toss in a kidnapped baby possessing seemingly supernatural powers.

Given the oddities of this tale, things could deteriorate rapidly without a perfectly suited cast. Here again, Wackler’s expertise results in gold as she has chosen just such a group of performers.

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As the road weary preacher, Gary Ballard is spot-on perfect.

Although his interpretation is certainly what one would expect as far as blustery, excitable and even occasionally frightening, Ballard never comes across as hypocritical.

His character believes what he says, which makes those moments when we see Tarbox’s private side so honest and genuine.

And after years on the preaching circuit, it seems that his daughter’s deformed child may be the physical manifestation of faith that has so long eluded the reverend.

As Becky Ann, Tarbox’s always supportive daughter, Amanda Deibert masterfully captures her character’s self-delusion.

The world and its bad news are too much for Becky Ann, so she blocks out reality by placing cotton in her ears.

The result is a seemingly dimwitted, immature woman/child.

However, we come to realize that Becky Ann might, in fact, be the only one with her head screwed on halfway straight.

Her World War II vet brother, Darrell, played by Travis Hammer, seems to suffer from what has come to be known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Beginning the play as a skeptic of his father’s beliefs and motivations, Hammer handles his character’s slow descent into mental illness with a believability that elicits our sympathy.

The work that Wackler and her cast bring to the stage is aided by some of the finest production values I’ve ever seen at this venue.

Scenic designers Mark Colson and PJ King provide a set to rival that of any large budget theater in Los Angeles.

A full-sized, period-perfect travel camper occupies the stage. This allows Wackler ample space for her production without any sense of repetitive movement or staging.

Rob Corn is a triple threat, having designed top-notch lighting, sound and some goose-bump eliciting special effects.

Likewise, Laura Brody’s costuming, Christine Joelle’s properties and David C. Hernandez’s fight choreography are beautiful parts of Wackler’s overall concept.


Get in touch DINK O’NEAL, an actor and member of the American Theatre Critics Assn., resides in Burbank. Get in touch DINK O’NEAL, an actor and member of the American Theatre Critics Assn., resides in Burbank.

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