A handful of Indy staff and I made it to this past Saturday night’s This Beautiful City, which I must admit totally blew me away. The comedic and dramatic timing was perfect; the performances relatable and authentic; and the middle-yet-truthful-ground trodden with care.
Emily Ackerman was great in a dual performance. First, as an ever-evolving Christian transgender woman who, initially, only finds happiness in stop-sign design until she’s fired and learns she has no protection under Colorado law, then as an abandoned, drug-addicted, teenage bride who (1) kicks coke for a more spiritual high and (2) shares the insight that Ted Haggard’s $200 meth purchase was a lot of yaba.
Next was Marsha Stephanie Blake’s multi-part portrayal of the people affected by the firing of ex-Emmanuel Baptist Church pastor Ben Reynolds, including Reynolds himself. Towards the end of the show, she gives a sermon from the replacing pastor and, building to a crescendo, blows the roof off the building in a fit of fiery indignation at letting inaction get the better of you. It was awesome, not to mention unexpectedly inspirational.
I could go on about each actor's prowess, but one thing is clear after meeting the many different “characters” in those two hours: It's easy to box up someone and cover them with a label, so it’s critical to be reminded of the equal complexity of emotion and thought that we all share. (Even if you — like me — share an emotional, thoughtful fear of legalized duck sex.)
Keep an eye out for The Civilians’ next project, a deeper look at another oft-maligned slice of society, done in the only way they know how: an interview-based porn musical. After experiencing the success of their unique “docu-atrical” approach here, count me in for anything.