Is the Christian church the root of all evil or the root of all good? Megan Piercey Monafu explores this complicated question, verbatim theatre-style, in 9th Hour Theatre Company’s first original work.
Should you see it?
Religion is complex topic. It’s such a nebulous concept that people feel extremely passionate about. Everyone believes in something, even if that’s nothing. While Grain of Salt touches on extremes, it mostly stays in the grey areas – which is both its strength and weakness.
For the uninitiated, verbatim is the theatre version of a documentary, with most of the dialogue coming word-for-word from interviews. Here, Megan Piercey Monafu applies some of her personal experience to interviews done with friends, strangers and anyone else who wanted to participate. The result is a very atypical theatrical experience.
There is a loose plot: Missionary Megan, a Christian high school student, starts wondering if the church should apologize for things like the crusades and homophobia, and she’s confronted by even more questions from the people she interviews.
The result is a show that is at times powerful, and at times overwhelming. There is so much information and so many viewpoints that it feels like Grain of Salt gets lost in its own topic at some points. These viewpoints are effectively compiled by Monafu. I especially appreciated that Grain of Salt feels balanced, and shifts easily and naturally from being serious to slightly more irreverent humor. Its broad scale also means that audience members will probably see glimpses of themselves in the characters – I sure know I did.
This ensemble gave really strong performances, and worked well together. Everyone did an excellent job of embodying different characters with different points of view, and not turning them into caricatures or stereotypes.
Kelly Rigole’s smart staging keeps Grain of Salt from getting too heavy and static, using the actors to create really interesting scenarios. This is brilliantly displayed in a scene set in the Montreal metro that accurately replicates the awkwardness of discussing heavy topics in public, crowded locations. This can get distracting at times; a restaurant scene a little later doesn’t work as well and just removed my concentration from the story. I do like that Rigole doesn’t shy away from silence, either, and uses it to great effect at a few points during the show.
Whether you love it, hate it or are just confused by it, Grain of Salt will definitely leave you thinking. In the end, isn’t that what theatre is all about? Go into it with an open mind, though. No matter what your opinion on religion, you won’t get anything out of it if you’re not willing to listen to other points of view.
But that’s just my opinion. Let us know what you thought of Grain of Salt in the comments below! What scene or character did you connect with the most? Did it challenge some of your beliefs?