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LALT’s ‘Church and State’ explores guns, politics, religion

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SUBMITTED TO THE MONITOR

Next up in Los Alamos Little Theatre’s 75th anniversary season is “Church and State,” by Jason Odell Williams.

The play will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays March 1-16, with a 2 p.m. matinee on March 10.

This production combines three elements — guns, politics and religion — while following the re-election campaign of Sen. Charles Whitmore, a compassionate conservative of the South.

In an unguarded moment, Whitmore shares a candid comment with a blogger, roiling his
campaign three days before the election.

Tim Orcutt, who plays Whitmore, said, “I fell in love with the show when I read it and was emotionally moved by it.

Whitmore is a good man, he’s very human and very relatable. He faces a crisis of faith, just like many who have endured a tragedy, but he strives to be honest and do the right
thing.”

Alexis Perry-Holby, playing Whitmore’s wife, Sara, said, “The interplay between religion and politics in our country is fascinating. Often it feels like we’re dealing with caricatures of ‘religious people’ and ‘political opponents’ and I think this play strives to humanize everyone.”

She added, “My character is a very strong woman with a clear idea of what she believes is right and wrong. She has worked very hard to get where she is in life. There’s a lot to like about her, but like everyone she is not without her flaws.”

Rounding out the cast is Charlotte Jusinski as Alex Klein, the campaign manager whose no-nonsense New York liberal roots create dissonance within a campaign appealing to Southern voters; and Ian Foti-Landis, taking on multiple roles, from a campaign staffer to a blogger to a security guard.

Director Patrick MacDonald said, “I was attracted to the script because it is full of fast-paced, witty, biting dialogue on present-day political issues. I expect audiences to walk out of the theatre with several of the one-liners still running through their head and discussing whether the climax of the show either reinforced or changed their stance on these issues.”

MacDonald’s directing credits in Los Alamos include the musical “Young Frankenstein” for the Los Alamos Light Opera and Martin McDonagh’s “The Pillowman” for LALT, which won him an Outstanding Director Award at the 2015 Theatre New Mexico statewide play competition.

Regarding the character Whitmore, “the audience will get to see someone who has been pushed to do a lot of things that he didn’t necessarily want to do, and then how things change when he starts following his own feelings and heart,” Foti-Landis said. “I don’t want the audience to turn away from the topics in the play, but to take this as an opportunity to think about what they or others may believe and take an honest look at it.”

For Perry-Holby, “Personally, I hope audiences will see the nuances of such debates brought to the forefront in this production: Mainly, that people on both sides of the debate are exactly that — people. In this case, fully-fledged and nuanced characters.”

The playwright Williams remarks, “[A] heavy drama about heavy topics doesn’t interest me. What interests me is a play that gets to the heart of the people around these issues. And when you write about people, you can’t help but let them be funny and sad and honest, heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time.”

Orcutt said, “The abrupt transitions from comedy to drama will tug at an audience’s heartstrings — just like any good piece of art should.”

Performances will be at the Performing Arts Center, 1670 Nectar St. in Los Alamos.

Los Alamos Little Theatre is a member-driven, non-profit 501(c)3 organization that has been presenting community theatre since 1943 for the entertainment and engagement of Northern New Mexico audiences.

Information about the theater’s season is available at lalt.org, where you can also sign up for e-mail notices of readings, auditions, performances and special events.