Two locally produced plays opening this weekend tread on what is often contentious ground - people of principle on opposing sides of a central issue. Though they take different approaches, both "Keely and Du," a drama about abortion, and "The Savannah Disputation," a comedy about the strange boundaries between Christianity and Catholicism, show how even firmly held beliefs may call for a leap of faith.
"Keely and Du" is probably not a play to attend on a first date. But it is the sort of play that haunts everyone who sees it and fuels endless, passionate debates over midnight cups of coffee weeks later, according to producers. The Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga will perform the play over the next two weekends.
Keely is a young woman who is pregnant because her ex stalked and raped her. Du is a nurse and member of an anti-abortion group that kidnaps Keely, handcuffs her to a bed and holds her prisoner until her baby is born. The play takes place in a basement but feels jam-packed with 11 characters, unexpected plot twists and a stunning surprise ending.
¦ What: "Keely and Du."
¦ When: 7:30 p.m. today-Saturday, Aug. 14-16 and 21-23; 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 17 and 24.
¦ Where: Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga, 5600 Brainerd Road (inside Eastgate Town Center).
¦ Admission: $15 adults, $10 students.
¦ Phone: 423-602-8640.
¦ Website: www.ensembletheatreofchattanooga.com.
The play is written by Jane Martin, a mystery author who has never revealed his or her true identity and never granted an interview. Ensemble producing partner Christy Gallo loves the mystery because it leaves the audience to question which relationships in the play were real, which were based on fear and who was right and wrong.
"We always choose plays that are provocative and offer more than just entertainment value," Gallo says. "Chattanooga has sophisticated theater lovers that will show up for challenging and unusual plays."
Gallo says ETC would love to present more original work by local authors, "especially workshops where the audience could discuss the play with the author after we produce it."
This fall, the ensemble will present an all-female version of "Othello," Shakespeare's tale of racism, jealousy, Borgia-like power plays and scorched-earth politics. Gallo dubs the project "Chickspeare."
Contact Lynda Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6391.
When a young evangelist going door-to-door spreading the word encounters two elderly Catholic sisters in "The Savannah Disputation," their subsequent discussion leads to funny and insightful moments.
The play is the first being presented by Ripple Productions since its home base, Ripple Theater in Brainerd, underwent a major renovation, according to Tom Goddard, president of Ripple Productions.
Ripple Productions grew out of a small video-based ministry in 1999. It soon started doing live productions, staging productions around town, including at Memorial Auditorium. It bought the old Back Stage Playhouse/Encore space on Brainerd Road in 2008, and spent the last several years raising funds and redoing the interior and exterior of the space.
¦ What: "The Savannah Disputation."
¦ When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 31.
¦ Where: Ripple Theater, 3264 Brainerd Road.
¦ Admission: $16.
¦ Phone: 423-600-9242.
"We renovated 8,000 of the 10,000 square feet, "Goddard says. "The auditorium, the exterior and the roof was replaced. We put $125,000 on the building and remained solvent. We have no debt other than the mortgage. If you went to Back Stage or Encore, you will not recognize it."
No longer a dinner theater, the space is "strictly a community center, performing arts center and theater," Goddard says.
"The Savannah Disputation" was written by Evan Smith. It is being directed by Whit Davies, who directed an earlier version in another city. It was that one that Goddard saw that inspired him to bring it here.
"It is very funny and very entertaining," Goddard says. "You laugh throughout, but it also raises a lot of questions.
"It's about what happens when people disagree. We will all encounter times in our lives where we disagree, so what do we do when they present themselves? Do we end the relationship, stop talking to each other, move on or deal with it?"
For Davies, what stood out "was the highlighting of a central and meaningful message, sullied and muddied by centuries of translation, interpretation and oftentimes outright manipulation," he says. "How easy it is for us to lose sight of the single important message, within the traditions and dogma of multiple denominations. If only we could realize that we share so much more in common."
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.