Pacific Theatre
Jesus Freak by Peter Boychuk

Date and Venue March 1-23, 2019, 8pm Wed – Sat + 2pm Saturday matinees | Pacific Theatre, 1440 W 12th Ave

Director Morris Ertman Set Designer Brian Ball Costume Designer Jessica Oostergo Lighting Designer Jillian White Sound Designer Rick Colhoun Ariel Slack Props Master Stage Manager Samantha Pawluik

Reviewer John Jane

Jesus Freak is a brand new family drama by BC playwright Peter Boychuk that centres on the inter-relational dynamic of a normally progressive leaning family when one of their members does something the others consider untenable. Daughter Clara (Kaitlin Williams) comes home from college and apprehensively announces that she has found religion. As far as Nate (Brandon Bate) her gay brother is concerned, she has gone over to the dark side. Her father Alan (Ron Reed) has always believed that science trumps faith, and sees religion as fine for other folks, not him. He is worried that his daughter may have been brain-washed. Only her mother Susan (Katharine Venour) offers unsure support.

Clara first appears just offstage with an introductory monologue. It’s Christmas in Montreal and she is lonely and vulnerable. She is struggling physically and emotionally with the Quebec winter and culture. The action then moves forward to Easter at the Campbell’s vacation home on Vancouver Island, where the rest of the play is set.

Kaitlin Williams offers a nuanced performance as the conflicted Clara who has to take on some dense dialogue. The somewhat exaggerated title suggests that the protagonist is affiliated with a cult group, which is how her father and brother see even orthodox religion. Ron Reed has arguably the most complex role as Alan Campbell. He is an outright contradiction: he is clearly ant-establishment, yet happily earns his living working for the government, he doesn’t believe in God yet refers to own corner of BC as “the promised land.”

Brandon Bate has the most unsympathetic role as Clara’s belligerent older sibling. Though, he bravely takes on the responsibility without asking favour from the audience. Katharine Venour anchors the play as the perceptive matriarch, bringing sensitivity in the role of a cancer survivor.

Director Morris Ertman wisely allows the actors to convey the spirit of Peter Boychuk’s contentious narrative. Brian Ball’s keenly detailed and well constructed set of the Campbell’s outdoor patio and Jillian White lighting provide a tranquil backdrop to the vociferous family dynamic.

Jesus Freak offers the audience an interesting dichotomy, since it shows a reversal of the common perception of fundamental religious followers having a lack of perceived tolerance for non-believers. However, perhaps the main take-away is to try and understand the other person’s point of view, even if it differs from our own – especially if it differs from our own.

© 2019 John Jane