Last night, Pacific Theatre opened their production of An Almost Holy Picture, a one man play written by Heather McDonald and directed by Ron Reed. The intimate play, performed by David Snider, follows the story of a husband and father who struggles with faith and the overwhelming mishaps of life. Pacific Theatre’s alley stage seems well suited for this production, and Snider was able to cater to both sides of the audience during his longer monologues and while he was gardening on stage.
The set itself, designed by Anna Schronder, was an array of flower pots, a wheelbarrow, a garden shack holding various tools, flower boxes, and a bench that was used for several purposes throughout the show. I thought this set was effective both in it’s appearance and it’s ability to be used multi-purposefully. For example, the bench was used as a sink, as the ledge of a cathedral, and as a counter. Simple sets and props contributed greatly to the monologue-heavy script and brought clarity to the words. The set also created an assortment of tasks for Snider to complete during his speeches, which enhanced the experience most of the time, but sometimes made a disconnect as well. At times, the tasks Snider was completing seemed disconnected to the story he was telling and as a result, his speech became disrupted and harder to follow as an audience member. This was especially apparent when he was shovelling dirt and his breath was altering the way he was speaking. It is clear that the garden, and the specific props and actions, were there to serve as a greater metaphor and meaning in the story, but the way they were used often functioned as a distraction.
Snider however, took on a large and challenging role and executed it with precision and passion. McDonald’s long, poetic, and heavily wordy piece is no simple task for the actor, and Snider completed it successfully. He gave each moment attention and lived fully through the story. Though physically and vocally he could have been more engaged, he did justice to McDonald’s triumphant and challenging work.
The writing was the glue holding the production together and made the whole piece worth seeing. McDonald has a gift in her poetic verses, detailed explanations, and discussion of the huge questions in life. Her story explores themes of loss, faith, family, expectations and love, with originality and grace.
Although this show holds challenging subject matter and technicalities, Snider is able to pull through McDonalds words and bring them to life, which makes for a thought-provoking evening of theatre.
An Almost Holy Picture plays February 21- March 3 at The Pacific Theatre | Tickets: $20-$36 | More info here