AISLE SAY Philadelphia


Directed by William Andrew Robinson
Broad St. Ministry, 315 S. Broad St. Philadelphia, PA
For Tickets go to
Performances through October 17, 2015
Reviewed by Claudia Perry

Melissa McBain’s intense drama, Altar Call has been appropriately mounted inside what appears to be a choir room at the Broad Street Ministry, a community based church on Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia. Previously produced at Playcrafters Barn Theater and The District Theater in Illinois, this production marks its Philadelphia premiere. This seven character play follows a Baptist family’s struggle with what is truly moral.

Leading lady Maggie Stone has been brought up in a very religious family. Maggie’s father, Silas, the Pastor of their Baptist church, is being pressured by members of his congregation to fire the new gay choir master, Matt. Maggie finds the thought that her father is even considering this option to be reprehensible. But Silas is only trying to do what he feels is most feasible for his church. At the same time, unbeknownst to Maggie, her son, John, has fallen in love with Matt. As if Maggie didn’t have enough to contend with, her husband, Alan, a well-established obstetrician, has decided to stop practicing as a doctor. He is now demanding that Maggie be the sole support of the family, claiming that it’s her turn. The family lives in Arizona in a large dwelling on a big tract of land with their own horses. Currently a grad student with an assistantship, Maggie must now get a “real” job to support the family in the manner to which they are accustomed.

The open space at the Ministry is well used. Taking place on Easter Sunday, Maggie’s dining room table becomes the Altar for Pastor Silas to celebrate Sunday service. There is a piano which is utilized and several songs are sung live by Matt, the choir master. It is essentially Maggie’s play, and when she is not rhapsodizing about the beauty of the place where she lives or her fondness for her father, she is battling with her stalwart husband. The play is well-crafted with plenty of conflict for all the characters to go around. Except for the serene monologues of Maggie’s remembrances, there seemed to be a lot of peaks and not enough valleys. We know that theatre is heightened reality but a scene needs to be built to its dramatic climax. I didn’t feel that the director allowed this to happen. Everyone seemed to be sawing away at each other most of the time.

Julia Wise is quite compelling as Maggie Stone, carrying her burdens with passion and poise. Russ Walsh strikes a good balance as the conflicted Pastor Silas Elmore. We feel that he is loving and compassionate towards his family, but pragmatic and anxious about the status of his congregation. Susan Mattson as Ruth, Maggie’s practical-minded mother, gives several impassioned speeches, encouraging her daughter to stay with her husband. That we consider Ruth’s argument as a viable option underlines the fact that Ms. Mattson is convincing and realistic. Gil Johnson is quite endearing as Maggie’s son who is experiencing the first bloom of love. Peter Andrew Danzig plays the passionate choir master, as an angry, young man who has been given prejudicial treatment and Andy Joos as the unrelenting husband, seems to be the villain, with no foreseeable redeeming qualities.

The play was produced by Jane Stojak, executive director of the Random Acts of Theater Foundation. After launching a successful Indiegogo campaign, Stojak, McBain and director William Andrew Robinson secured Liberty Education Forum as a national sponsor to help enable them to mount this production.

For tickets go to

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