In a riveting two-hour performance, the devastating effects of cult and thought-control groups is brought to life in Allen Barton’s production, “Disconnection.” Based on true events, and performed by a cast of six remarkable, convincing actors, the production is a powerful indictment of the dark side of dedication to a Church, its doctrines and its intrusions into personal relationships.
Barton leaves no stone unturned in his relentless, gut-wrenching expose of the Church’s recruitment tactics, their harassment, stalking, and aim to ruin defectors. Disconnection is the thread that affects each of the play’s vulnerable, damaged characters. After “finding” the Church, they are audited, mind-controlled, and, ostensibly for the Church’s greater cause, coerced into disconnection from family and friends.
In the opening scene three expressionless actors listen on headphones to group leader Oldman’s (Robert L. Hughes) recorded teachings. Because of the length it took some concentration to glean the meaning of the less-than-inspiring, brainwashing words to sink in. The play really fires up in the second scene with the meeting between Landon (Jay Huguley) and Michel (Dennis Nollette)
Landon, a successful lawyer, still blames himself for his wife's death. He hopes relearning his piano skills with charismatic, insightful teacher Michel will somehow restore his relationship with dead wife. Some unexpected humor is injected in their wonderfully portrayed initial meeting, during which Landon reveals the painful circumstances of his wife’s untimely death, and the forced disconnection from his daughter, Tess (Carter Scott), whom he hasn’t seen for several years, and who is now an important Church Staff member.
Tess became a Church member at age sixteen, after her mother’s sad demise. She is married to Nick (Luke Cook) who is a higher-up co-Staff worker. She reports directly to the inflexible Church Chairman (Everette Wallin), who joined the Church at age ten. Cook and Scott display some powerful acting in a confrontational scene during which Cook's character emphatically displays more loyalty to the Church than to his wife and expectant baby.
The second-half of “DISCONNECTION” opens with a lengthy but wonderfully delivered monologue by the now-isolated founder Oldman (Robert L. Hughes), that left me wondering whether it could have been somewhat shortened because, sometimes, less is really more. Despite that, it is an all round superb production that never fails to deliver, and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Heartbreakingly, Landon is disconnected from his aging, beloved teacher Michel, who has been forbidden to communicate with him. Michel is disallowed from accepting money or aid from Landon, even though he manifests abjectly poor circumstances. He is also being totally neglected by his Church—where he’s been a member for half a century.
In the final, riveting, confrontational scene between Tess and the young Chairman (Everette Wallin), the threats and drama reach a frightening crescendo. One is left with little doubt about the Church’s control, fanaticism, and devastating effect on families ripped apart. No written review can do justice to this production—every scene is that powerful!
The entire cast and production team of “DISCONNECTION” deserve special mention, with extra-special kudos to Playwright Allen Barton and skillful director Joel Polis for giving us this incredible play. Barton, a renowned classical pianist, also provided the wonderful tone-setting piano playing throughout.
DISCONNECTION was developed through Skylight Theatre Company's INKubator program.
What: The World Premiere of DISCONNECTION
Where: THE BEVERLY HILLS PLAYHOUSE
254 South Robertson Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Playwright: Allen Barton
Directed by: Joel Polis
Produced by: Gary Grossman
Presented by: Skylight Theatre Company
Cast includes: Luke Cook, Bo Foxworth*, Rob Hughes, Jay Huguley,* Dennis Nollette, Carter Scott, and Everette Wallin
* Denotes double cast
Set and Lighting Designer Jeff McLaughlin
Sound Designer Peter Bayne
Production Stage manager Garrett Longley
Publicist Judith Borne,
Associate Producer Rachel Berney Needleman
DISCONNECTION opens at 8pm on January 24th at the Beverly Hills Playhouse 254 South Robertson Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA. 90211 Performances are at 8:30pm Fridays, 8pm on Saturdays, and 7pm Sundays thru March 1st (No performances Feb 1st or 22nd).
How much: Tickets are $30-34.
How: For reservations call 213-761-7061 or online at Skylight Theatre