Sin in the New Religion | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Sin in the New Religion


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SIN IN THE NEW RELIGION, Ironwood Theatre Project, at the Chopin Theatre. I don't know how long Ironwood Theatre cofounder Hadwin Kingsley has been writing, but judging by this, his latest effort, I wouldn't think very long. Sin in the New Religion features a slow-moving story, dialogue that's labored and cliched, and dramatic moments that are alternately understated and melodramatic.

Kingsley's story has promise, however: a tight, repressed little town comes apart when a manipulative therapist "discovers," through suspect memory-recovery techniques, that many of the town's young people have been sexually abused, sparking a witch-hunt not unlike the one in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. In expert hands such a story could be riveting. But Kingsley, who also directs, takes way too long to figure out who the play is about and how to tell his story: the first act is a maze of false starts and misleading moments. Is it about the well-meaning Protestant minister whose marriage is falling apart? His vaguely rebellious daughter? Her ineffectual boyfriend? His hip, drug-dealing brother, returned from the wilds of New York City? Or is the play about the charismatic counselor (nicely played by Kendra Thulin) who leads the town's children against their parents?

By the time Kingsley answers these questions he's used up most of his stage time. And so he tells only half a tale, ending the evening both too late and too soon with a climactic moment that should have come just before intermission.

--Jack Helbig

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