Sinners, Saints, and Boston Roots in “Goodly Creatures”

Photo by Alex Aroyan; Smack talk shall not be tolerated.

Presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston
By William Gibson
Directed by John Geoffrion

September 20 through October 6, 2013
First Church Boston
66 Marlborough St
Boston, MA 02116
Hub Theatre Co on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston) Boston embraces the fact it has a long history, at least longer than most of the US.  It celebrates the pieces that are unique to Massachusetts’s development as a colony, the Revolutionary War, and the soldiers who die for a common cause.  Historical figure Anne Hutchinson has a memorial to her name in Quincy, Massachusetts, but what she symbolizes and what led to her place in history is difficult to build a fitting monument to.

William Gibson’s Goodly Creatures is such a monument.  It shows Anne Hutchinson (the excellent Nancy Finn) as a woman looking to better her community with her more liberal interpretation of the Bible.  She is, however, willful and popular when the Puritan community she and her husband, William (Craig Houk), join in the 1600’s want her to be humble and discrete.

Having moved to the New World to follow her religious teacher, Cotton (Jack Schultz), Anne is dismayed to discover she dislikes the politics and church leaders of the Boston community.  In her kitchen, Finn’s Hutchinson takes matters into her own hands as she invites neighbors to discuss the sermons they hear each week.  Her interpretations don’t jive well with the magistrate, Winthrop (Phil Thompson), and the fire and brimstone chaplain, Wilson (Robert Orzalli) and they eventually begin a campaign against her.  With the colony’s more pressing problems baring down on their heads, Anne Hutchinson comes to embody all of the difficulties of the community in fighting Native Americans and staying financially afloat.  She tries to heal and help the community, but all that is forgotten as she becomes a convenient scapegoat.

Anne Hutchinson’s sacrifice is a difficult subject.  Even she isn’t always painted in the most flattering light, pulling strings and influencing her followers in order to appoint her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright (Cristhian Mancinas Garcia), as minister.  Still, it’s hard to see when there’s a possibility for her to turn back. Her commitment to her cause is brave and clear-sighted even as she falls out of favor with the rest of the Boston leaders.

Nancy Finn as Hutchinson and Phil Thompson as Winthrop put on powerful performances.  Hub Theatre Company is still very new and some of its less emphasized actors sometimes trip over their lines, but the leads like Robert Orzalli as Wilson are absolute powerhouses.  I hope the company is headed on to other, wonderful projects.

The sad result of the events that transpire in Boston are a frank reminder of the muddy side of history.  Massachusetts celebrates its forefathers proudly but not always the ambiguities, the victims of religious persecution under Puritan Law and the dissent stamped out over the interpretation of doctrine.  Goodly Creatures is a humbling reminder of where we come from and a play that turns the historical, holier-than-thou Puritans into flesh-and-blood, fallible humans.

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