Set in the 1930s, “The Eighth Order” tells the story of Charlotte Steele (Kimberley A. Gowland), a controlling, single mother burdened by a prophecy that her son Philip (Brad Minus) would encounter an archangel and be bestowed with the gift of healing and the power to raise the dead.
After years of ignoring the prediction, Charlotte is finally confronted with the truth when Clara Hamlin (Mary Brick), a woman with a reputation for being loose, reveals that Philip has miraculously healed the family cat. But its only when Philip is called on to raise Claras dead son does Charlotte worry that her worst fears will soon be realized. Her life is further complicated by the impending marriage of her daughter Pauline (Jennifer Reitz) to Cliff Foley (Scott Olson), a gravedigger who drinks too much and is old enough to be Paulines father. Both plots work to bring Charlotte to the realization that destiny is beyond her control.
Gowland is perfect as the complex but well-meaning Charlotte. Gowland is able to show all sides of her character as she evolves from a suspicious, overprotective mother into a yielding, humble soul. The passionate interplay between Gowland and Minus is captivating and seems to elicit the best from them both.
Despite his real-life Jewish heritage, Minus delivers a stellar performance as a devout Catholic determined to bring lost souls to Christ. Those not impressed with Minus work at the start of the play will be by the end, when he describes his up-close-and-personal meeting with an angel. Minus portrayal of Philip runs the full gamut of emotion, and he does well to capture the essence of the character.
As the tall-tale-telling Cliff Foley, Olson does a fine job of infusing bursts of levity into a story with such a serious theme. But even Cliff, who seems to carry wild stories in his back pocket, finds it hard to accept Philips account. It is only after witnessing firsthand Philips miraculous power does Cliff become a believer. And though his character projects a shady personality at the start of the play, Olson is able to portray a certain sincerity about Cliff that makes him not only a tolerable but likable choice for Pauline.
Gowland, Minus and Olson certainly hold their own, but kudos go to Reitz, Brick and Rose Declercq as Mary Gardner for turning out decent performances in their smaller roles.
Sparsely decorated with modest furniture, the setting Charlottes small living room works well to depict the depressive mood of the era, and the angelic ballads heard during scene changes punctuate the plays heavenly theme.
Director Mary-Anne Sullivan scores high marks with this production. From casting to set design to scene transition, everything comes together to make even the biggest skeptic question whether miracles do happen.
“The Eighth Order” by Castaways
Fridays and Saturdays until Feb. 1
Ferlazzo Building, 15941 Donald Curtis Drive, Woodbridge
Tickets: $12, $18