It’s a good thing that the communication studies department knows how to tell a story.
Their efforts at imaginative and personable story-telling took what could have been a trite, tired topic — the church and its strained relationship with homosexuality — and turned it into a lively, warm ensemble piece with real heart.
UNC Comm Studies Dept
Thursday Sept. 17
Dive verdict: 4.5 of 5 stars
“Nothing Pink,” the communication studies department’s 2010 season opener, was written and directed by department professor Paul Ferguson.
His clever script is based on the 2009 novel “Nothing Pink,” written by Durham-based author Mark Hardy.
Perhaps it is a hold-over from Hardy’s novel, but the story that Ferguson tells is both moving and witty, transforming a contemporary issue of the culture wars into a quiet, personal reflection on love, faith and family.
The play tells the story of Vincent, a young gay man struggling to reconcile his sexual feelings with his deeply religious upbringing.
His parents, a stern but loving Baptist minister and his dutiful wife, have raised their son to be pious and polite — and quietly buried the obvious signs of his homosexuality beneath years of prayer and praise.
But when Vincent meets Robert, a bold and confident gay teen in his father’s congregation, Vincent’s repressed longings eventually surface and romance blossoms.
The production gains much from its creative use of casting and scenic decoration.
Except for the four principals and an older version of Vincent — serving as narrator — the rest of the 10-person cast is fluid, playing a variety of roles and serving as a kind of pop-biblical radio choir.
In the black box Studio Six at Swain Hall, chairs, risers and a giant cross serve as church pews, horse stables, bath tubs and camp fires, among other props and scenic pieces.
But the true strength of the production is its talented and musically delightful cast.
As the older Vincent, recent alumni Sean Casserly was a winning narrator.
Looking back at his sexually frustrated youth, Casserly’s Vincent is poised and funny, telling the tale as if it is truly his own.
It helps that the young Vincent, played by sophomore Mason Cordell, is equally lovable, taking the awkward teen to a comically charming hilt. His budding relationship with the equally charming Vincent — 2010 alumnus Phil Denny — is believable in its expectant, gawky tension.
As Daddy and Momma, Alan Maule and Andrea Powell show true patience and grit in their attempts to rationalize their love for their gay son with their love for a God that might not be so accepting.
“Anything you’re afraid to say, you say it to music,” Vincent says early in the opening number, and the music choices — a mix of pop hits and familiar hymns that serve as emotional indicators — are mostly winning.
The production’s most powerful moment comes as chorus member Susan Burcham softly sings the Counting Crows’ classic “Colorblind” and the two boys share a peaceful evening on a mountain top — defiantly holding hands as they face their Lord.
The play’s refusal to delve into politically-tinged debate and focus on the love at the core of the story make it a truly moving piece.
Storytelling isn’t always easy, but the University is fortunate to have a storyteller as gifted as Ferguson.
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