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LA Theater Review

One Nation, Under God

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Given religion's role in shaping our current geopolitical climate, the timing for this piece would seem most pointed. Playwright-director Philip W. Chung, with his cast's workshopped assistance, delivers a sharply defined world premiere concerning one man's spiritually inspired horrific actions.

The pieces are there. Cleanly implemented technical elements support an intriguing story peopled by actors whose work falls, for the most part, within the range of three-dimensional characterizations. And yet a sense of the strained keeps sneaking into the proceedings. It's as if the debate surrounding the history and nature of Christianity isn't enough. No, there must exist a foray into the supernatural to keep the audience engaged. Even the paranormal isn't necessarily the problem. It's that all the logic and setup can't sustain the story without devolving into melodramatic creepiness as the main character receives instructions from God that will hasten the onslaught of Armageddon.

The plot is as follows: A young man, covered in blood, stumbles into a Catholic church. He recounts to the parish priest, through a series of flashbacks, the story of his life leading up to this meeting. As the young man, Ryun Yu presents a captivating portrayal of a Gen-Xer whose faith replaces his scientific judgment once he receives messages from an angelic visitor. Kim's spiritual counterpart, Father Chan, played ably by Dennis Dun, serves as a theatrical convention. His disbelief and skepticism represents the audience's as this 90-minute one-act unfolds. Both actors acquit themselves nicely, but their tendency to rush through the intricate dialogue leads to a number of jumbled line readings on opening night.

Choruslike personas are provided by Nechelle Fabiana, Caroline Le Duc, Jeff Liu, Kelley Lund, and Brian P. Nichols. They handle with finesse the finely choreographed movement on set designer Angie Park's onstage blocks to represent each new locale. Aesthetically, Jakyung Seo's lighting, including fireworks and gorgeous backlighting, and sound designer Dennis Yun's original music complement the show beautifully. Unfortunately the show's captivating premise ends in an abruptly predictable conclusion.

Presented by Lodestone Theatre Ensemble at GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Aug. 5-27. (323) 993-7245. www.lodestonetheatre.org.

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