By Christopher Popple
“Good Standing” begins with Austin Archer looking dejected with a letter in his hand. The letter states that his character’s Mormon church plans to hold a hearing to determine whether or not he will be excommunicated after marrying his same-sex partner. A row of empty chairs is reserved for the priests who will argue for or against his decision.
This 90-minute drama, written by Matthew Greene, is longer than any other performance I’ve seen at the United Solo Theatre Festival, yet its smart and emotional writing made the time fly by. While the testimonies given by the priests that demonize the protagonist are disheartening, they are portrayed with humanity. Each tries to rationalize away anything that contradicts the doctrine around which he’s based his life, whether through hysterical denials or calm rejection. They try to convince themselves that “joy comes later” and “they’re jealous of how happy we are!” Though the audience is never asked to side with the priests, they are not depicted as cartoonishly monstrous for rejecting a concept that is alien to them.
Mr. Archer’s acting ties everything together. His subtle body language vividly paints every scene and brings every character to life. Something as simple as an eye roll reacting to a priest flying off the handle is enough to get the audience laughing. There are so many characters that they are not always immediately distinguishable, but eventually the transitions between them become easier to spot.
This show’s most powerful moment comes from the final testimony, delivered by the protagonist’s own father. The father is torn between his position in the church and his love for his son. When he recalls attending his son’s wedding and feeling too paralyzed by fear to celebrate and dance with him, he finally cracks and bursts into tears. The sorrow on Mr. Archer’s face is sincere and deeply felt.
“Good Standing” is a powerful narrative about hope and community. While the protagonist loses his relationships with some of his peers, he comes to recognize the love of those who will accept him no matter what.
Performed by Austin Archer
Nov. 4 at 2pm
Playwright: Matthew Greene
Director: Jerry Rapier
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
CHRISTOPHER POPPLE is a Monmouth University graduate and budding reviewer.