by Paula Citron
Paul Ciufo’s ambitious, provocative and very moving Reverend Jonah at the Blyth Festival is one of the best. The Blyth audience tends to be conservative, small town and rural, but they are also discerning. They applauded after each scene, and gave a standing ovation at the end.
Ciufo’s antihero is a young, troubled, left-leaning, pill-popping United Church Minister who takes on his first church in a small southwestern Ontario town. Darren Keay gives a performance of a lifetime as Rev. Jonah and leads a very strong cast. Jonah’s problems mount when he tries to get a lesbian taken back into the church membership, while he is also carrying on an inappropriate relationship with a young woman of the congregation.
The play is beautifully written, funny and sad by turns, well directed by Marie Beath Badian, and if designer Camellia Koo’s sliding panels are cumbersome at times, they do work.
Reverend Jonah continues until Sept. 1.
From the Blyth Memorial Hall, I’m Paula Citron, arts reviewer for CLASSICAL 96.3 FM.