"God is the most impossible man to deal with!" cries a frustrated Sister Margaret (Agnolia B. Gay) in James Baldwin's "The Amen Corner" at the Basement Theatre in Pasadena.
Margaret, a minister whose congregation eventually betrays her, is strong yet immensely troubled, torn between her faith in God and her love for her husband, Luke (Fitz Houston).
Anybody who has struggled with doubts about religion, love and loyalty will empathize with Sister Margaret, whose stubborn, desperate faith becomes both her salvation and her destruction. She tries to keep her restless young son (William Everette Simmons) from following in the path of his musician father, who reappears after years of separation, deathly ill but defiantly resistant to his wife's religiosity.
During an exuberant church scene, the audience almost becomes part of the congregation. It's easy to forget that it's a play and start to clap along with the soulful hymns of praise.
This is due in part to the Basement Theatre's tininess, utilized to its fullest by set designer Karen Pollock. Scenes of city life are woven into the three-act play, giving a vivid sense of the gritty environment the characters inhabit, with only their religious faith to rejoice in--and manipulate.
"The Amen Corner" plays at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays until Dec. 18. Sunday matinees will play at 2 p.m. Dec. 5 and 12. Tickets are $12, $10 for seniors and children under 12. Group rates available. Basement Theatre, 464 E. Walnut St. For tickets and information, call 818-683-1651.