Review by Lisa Levesque
75 mins | Comedy, Drama
Grain of Salt is about modern Christian debate, doubt and belief. Through tableaus and short expositions, it attempts to open up dialogue on exactly what’s right and wrong with the church today.
Walking in to see it at St. Alban’s church, I was struck by the fantastic choice of venue. Sitting down in the pew is quite the emotional experience if, like me, it’s not something you would normally do. By donning choir robes, playing the pipe organ, and singing choral music, the cast of Grain of Salt sets the atmosphere as authentic, immediate, and emotionally charged.
As it’s verbatim theatre, the dialogue is drawn almost entirely from interviews with Ottawans. While these aren’t the voices you’d normally hear from the pulpit, maybe they should be. They’re contemporary and they’re real, and performed in a church they feel germane to the very personal question or whether to believe in God or not.
Instead of an answer to this question, which the show thankfully never attempts, we get Missionary Meg. The show’s only repeat character, Meg is a teenager in love with Jesus but confused about His place on earth. Played by the show’s playwright, director, and producer Megan Piercey Monafu, the semi-autobiographical Meg provides a stable voice among the fragments that we hear. As Meg is exposed to opposing perspectives – from the betrayed believer to the agnostic who wants to believe – she struggles to make amends to the church’s faults through dialogue, forgiveness and love. Homosexuality looms large as a contentious issue, though the Crusades, evangelicalism, and hypocrisy make notable appearances. It’s clear, though, that there is no easy resolution in sight. For all of the frustration and emotional turmoil caused by this impasse the audience, like Meg, will just have to accept that the debate rages on.
The advertising for Grain of Salt pegs it as irreverent and even joking – “A priest, a Pentecostal kid and a drag queen walk into a bar” – but this is a thoughtful and tumultuous play. It’s much more complex and layered than these caricatures would suggest. Whether you’re religious or not, a trip to church to see Grain of Salt will challenge your beliefs.
Grain of Salt by Megan Piercey Monafu is at BYOV F – St. Alban’s on Saturday June 21 at 9:00, Tuesday June 24 at 7:00, Thursday June 26 at 7:00, Friday June 27 at 7:00, and Saturday June 28 at 1:00 and 5:00. Tickets are $10.