On a stormy night a young woman suffering from catatonia begins to emerge from her years of silence with a series of painful screams. That same night her estranged brother is scheduled to arrive. The live-in nurse and maid become overwhelmed with trying to keep the young girl calm and call her Psychiatrist for help. There is a blackout. When the lights emerge a young man is found naked on the floor face down in a bed of feathers in a catatonic state. Is it a mass delusion, a physical embodiment of the girl's mental illness, a visitation of an angel, or is this visitor an imposter? Be prepared to be startled, provoked and intrigued by this most unique play.
This play is rated NC-17 due to male nudity, graphic violence, language and adult subject matter.
Brian Cook Charli Armstrong Caleb Mills Stewart Sara Montgomery Michael Rathbun Grisel Cambiasso George Spelvin
Directed by Mark-Brian Sonna
"5 Stars" Goldstar.com
'The Soul Gatherer' does his job well in MBS Productions latest show
“The Soul Gatherer” is industrial strength theater.
You won't go home humming the tunes. There are none. You won't go home repeating funny lines – well maybe one or two. You will go home wondering what it all meant and pondering what exactly you believe about the nature of God and human beings and just who created who.
One thing good theater does is pose questions and possibly an answer or two once in awhile. The MBS Productions' current show is great with the posing questions part. That's why it's so much fun.
Mark-Brian Sonna dreamed this play and wrote it all down when he woke up. It seems his writing life is a result of his dream life.
Whatever Sonna's muse is, he has created a play saturated with meaning and beauty. Gideon, played by Brian Cook, appears in a blackout. Therese, a wheelchair-bound, catatonic girl, has somehow summoned him. Sara Montgomery gives Therese a whole personality and not just the tics and freak mannerisms of a patient with major psychological issues.
She and Gideon are totally enthralled with each other for awhile. Everyone in the play is enthralled with him, but who wouldn't be considering he arrives completely naked in a cloud of feathers. Are the feathers part of his absent wings? Did somebody rip apart a pillow? Just a few of the questions this play poses.
All of the other characters of the play have encounters with Gideon. They all see him differently while Gideon mostly stands around looking beatific like a saint who has escaped from a medieval painting.
All of the other characters are discomfited with life in general. They are all dealing with issues that have damaged them, but Gideon is the only one who is comfortable in his own skin, literally.
Even though Cook has an eye-candy of a body, he manages to convey an other-worldliness with more than all the exposed epidermis.
This is another reason “The Soul Gatherer” is so much fun. Sonna poses deep, mystical questions with prurient interest, a winning combination.
Grisel Cambiasso plays Matilde and Charli Armstrong plays Bernadette, Therese's caregivers. These two take the arrival of a naked, supernatural being in their stride. Their concern is for their patient till they begin thinking about the questions Gideon creates. Cambiasso plays Matilde with all of her issues boiling away beneath a stolid surface. Armstrong makes Bernadette very brave and willing to tackle anything supernatural or otherwise.
Therese's brother Mark is played by Caleb Mills Stewart with angst and anger that threatens to boil over at the slightest provocation. It's clear Mark has invested most of his energy in his bad boy image so he doesn't have to deal with anything unpleasant. You can imagine Gideon causes him a good deal of unrest.
Gideon doesn't make Frederick happy either. Played by Michael Rathbun, Therese's psychiatrist falls completely for whatever magic Gideon is working. Rathbun does discomfort well.
When characters shout and scream it is hard to understand them in the Stone Cottage.
This play doesn't cry out for editing as much as Sonna's other plays, but it could stand some minor surgery.
The show is worth this trip into Mark-Brian Sonna's dreams. He also directed the play so he knows how to ask those philosophical and religious questions to create a worthwhile evening of theater. What questions will he tackle next? Who knows? Maybe Sonna is getting sleepy.
Cast members are from all over the Metroplex including Plano, Lewisville, Frisco and Dallas.
The show runs through April 16 at the Stone Cottage in Addison.
Reviewed by Shelley Kaehr, Associate Theater Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I've had the pleasure of meeting Mark-Brian Sonna a few times now and I am always left with the impression this is a man who is not afraid to get out of the box. After seeing The Soul Gatherer, I now know that is an understatement. Soul Gatherer is perhaps the rawest, emotionally vulnerable and exciting piece of original theater I've seen in a very long time.
Don't get me wrong, I'm like all good theatrical patrons in that I enjoy the old tried and true; those programs sure to give entertainment bang for the buck, but what I find exceptionally appealing is seeing something new. This play takes new to a whole new level. As we joked after the show, where does one go from here?
This piece is not for the faint of heart. Emotionally charged performances by Sara Montgomery, as the crippled Therese, and Charli Armstrong, as Bernadette, made this program one that would scare you to death one second and make you want to cry the next.
Special acknowledgements and kudos to Brian Cook whose portrayal as Gideon was compelling and perfectly played with just the right mix of compassion and terror. His scenes in the beginning of the play were done sans costume, and to be that vulnerable in front of a live audience takes more courage than I would ever hope to have, let alone his acting performance. I was wowed, big time.
The rest of the cast was incredible as well – Grisel Cambiasso portrayed a heartbroken woman with such grace. Caleb Mills Stuart's turn as Mark was well acted, and George Spelvin's Paul rounded out the cast perfectly.
Based on the playwright's dream, the story causes us all to examine our inner selves, as each character must reveal his or her vulnerabilities to Gideon who takes their pain away and ushers them into the afterlife in succubus fashion.
I hesitate to say more about the story here lest I spoil all the many well plotted surprises Mark-Brian has in store for you. I will say this program is not for the faint of heart, which is one of the things I loved most about it. Please, if you haven't seen it yet, or even if you have, I urge you to check this one out. I overheard many audience members who saw this a few years back saying how much they liked this new cast, and I heard from a few friends who saw the show the first time it played who told me how good it is. They were right! Great theater should stretch our boundaries, and Mark-Brian has the hutzpah to take us to the edge and back.
Great job! I cannot wait to see what MBS puts out next. I'll be there!
Reviewed by Shelley Kaehr, Associate Theater Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Handsome Angel Assassin in Enigmatic, Eerie Soul Gatherer - 4 Stars Christopher Soden - Examiner.com
Currently playing at The Stone Cottage, next door to Water Tower Theatre in Addison, is a strange and intriguing play about death, love and attachment called The Soul Gatherer. Realistic in its execution and surreal at its core, Soul Gatherer explores the nature of earthly bliss by clothing it in the traditional plot of a murder mystery in which sequestered guests are taken out, one by one. The difference here, though, is we know who’s doing the killing, we’re just not sure how or why. Director and writer Mark-Brian Sonna takes a gamble of sorts. The logic that turns the wheel here is intuitive and dream-inspired, so you either go with it or fight the impulse to slam on the brakes. Sonna does his best to take a fanciful, eerie notion and make it accessible in literal terms. And mostly I think it works.
Not very far into the piece, the lights go out and when they’re restored, we find a handsome (if other-worldly) naked young man with long black hair, lying in a heap of dazzling white feathers. His name is “Gideon” but beyond that, he seems to be suffering from a bad case of amnesia. Gideon has fallen into a gathering of family members and caregivers, who have assembled in a remote cabin, prone to isolation when rain makes the river rise. They try to figure out just exactly what to do with him, in the process ascertaining that there is something vaguely miraculous about the fellow. While one of them hears him speak in English, another perceives it in Spanish. And Gideon seems to have intimate knowledge of each character’s past.
The Soul Gatherer is chilling, in its way. We know that these poor, tortured individuals are dying, one at a time, and Sonna proffers the opportunity to gaze into a somewhat viable (if personal) enigma of his own creating. It’s a riff on the Angel of Death, with additional details, i.e. the particulars of His technique, to make the story absorbing. On the occasional instances when it falters, it’s due to the discrepancy between the metaphoric and the realistic. The idea of a beautiful Angel Assassin, who mixes intimacy with death, sounds compelling on paper, but I’m not sure it always floats. All this being said, The Soul Gatherer certainly has enough going on to keep us involved and entertained. Sonna has a gift for trumping most theatre you see with verve and originality. The content combines spirituality with heartbreak, and leaves you with a yearning, implacable sense of loss.
MBS Productions proudly presents The Soul Gatherer playing March 24th-April 16th, 2011 at The Stone Cottage Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison, Texas, 75001. 214-477-4942.