A rural Southern town and the members of the Holiness Way church are the focus of Kennedy Theatre’s second primetime production “Handler,” which opens tonight.
“Handler,” written by playwright and actor Robert Schenkkan, revolves around the tragedy-stricken Geordi and Terri and their experience within the local church as they struggle to rebuild their marriage after Geordi is released from prison.
The play comes with tragic twists and uplifting miracles that will keep the audience asking questions. Kennedy Theatre publicity director Matthew Kelty, who plays Brother Bob, said he believes that Schenkkhan wanted to “throw the audience off-kilter,” so as to keep them from making assumptions.
‘THE COMMONALITY OF MAN’
Although the setting is religious, it is not the intent of the play to force the audience to believe in a higher power.
“The show is not about trying to push this religion,” explained Tyler Nichols, an MFA directing candidate and director of the production. “It’s more about the characters within the play and their relationships and their lives.”
Though the themes of the show are universal, the setting of the church provides insight into a closed-off world. Through this uncommon setting, Nichols wants to show “the commonality of man.”
“It doesn’t really matter where you’re from: Your relationships with people are going to be the same. The things that you go through, for the most part, are going to be the same; the emotional turmoil that you go through is going to be the same,” said Nichols.
‘IS LOVE STRONG ENOUGH TO FORGIVE?’
The main theme of the play is love – romantic love, religious love and love amongst a community. Kelty said that one of the main questions the play poses to the audience is, “Is love strong enough to forgive?”
Characters in the show believe that God’s love is strong enough to forgive any sin, but the question is whether they are able to do the same. According to Isaac Ligsay, who plays Geordi, the role of the church fits in perfectly with this theme, since it is a “society of just acceptance, love, forgiveness … [a society] not looking at any qualifications of a person, but more so what’s the quality of their heart.”
“Handler” will touch upon serious issues, but it has a simple purpose. When asked what the audience should take away from the show, Ligsay stated that though life may prove difficult, there are always ways of overcoming those adversities.
“There’s always hope. … It’s like life is so fleeting, but at the same time in yourself, you harness this power where you can have faith to believe anything you want, and I guess that … ability to do that is a miracle in itself.”