Everyman Theatre’s “An Almost Holy Picture,” the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play currently available online, is a beautifully staged and acted production. It proves to be a one-man tour-de-force for Bruce Randolph Nelson as Samuel Gentle, a priest turned groundskeeper at a cathedral. Three major incidents in his life have shaped and reshaped his faith and life, as we learn as we listen to his musing over the past and his mistakes and guilt and repentance.
…Nelson brings this universal journey to vivid, melancholic, and forgiving life. Don’t miss this one.
As a nine-year-old, he and his father heard the voice of God as they climbed through a cranberry bog. As a young priest on his first assignment, there was a terrible school bus accident in which nine children died. While a groundskeeper/gardener at the cathedral, his daughter was born with a rare disease. In the end, it was another child, also different, who provides the means for redemption.
Heather McDonald, who lives in Baltimore, structures her play into four parts, but almost the entire second half is concerned with his daughter and her disease. It’s also the more emotional part of the play as Samuel’s fears and attempt to control outcomes play out.
Nelson is superb in this play. Under Noah Himmelstein’s direction, the movement is sparse yet meaningful. Seemingly completely unselfconscious, every movement, no matter how mundane, is conducted with deliberation. Combined with Nelson’s mellifluous voice, the entire play becomes a sort of biographical meditation. The fluid movements and voice combined center the attention without seeming effort.
Set designer Paige Hathaway has created an uncluttered set. Combined with the exquisite lighting of Harold F. Burgess II and his discreet projections onto the screen the height of the back wall, establish the three main periods of his life.
This is a show of sorrow and joy and grace and redemption. It’s a show about having, or regaining, faith in the universe to deliver you where you need to go. Nelson brings this universal journey to vivid, melancholic, and forgiving life. Don’t miss this one.
Running Time: Approximately two hours with 2 very brief intermissions.
Show Advisory: For 12 and up.
“An Almost Holy Picture” runs through August 22, 2021. This production is pre-recorded and presented virtually through on-demand streaming by Everyman Theatre, Baltimore, MD. For more information, please click here.