by Edward Precht. @PertoltPrecht.
WHITE PLAINS, NY - With Broadway shut down since March 2020 – and no plans to reopen until later this year – fans of plays and musicals alike have been desperate to recreate the theatrical experience. Such was the case of Kelsey Ballentine, who attended her local Presbyterian church’s packed, maskless Easter Sunday service just to feel something again.
“I never thought I’d come to one of these,” said Kelsey, clutching a church program with the word PLAYBILL hastily scribbled across the top. “I mean, church has always been one of those fringe shows you hear about, but don’t really want to see. But it was exactly what I needed to fill that empty pit in my stomach that formed a little over a year ago.”
Ballentine arrived late just so she could be seated by an usher in an ill-fitting button-up. There were reportedly a lot of coughing old people in the audience, which Kelsey saw as a “huge plus”.
“And at 90 minutes, no intermission? Totally worth the ticket price,” she added, turning over her church program, where the words THIS IS A REAL ACTUAL TICKET TO AN ACTUAL REAL SHOW had been written in that same, manic handwriting.
Ms. Ballentine wasn’t the only recovering theatre fan in the audience.
“Oh, I’ve been coming to these Sunday matinees since Broadway shut down,” said Hazel Rothman-Wasserman, wearing a CHURCH MERCH t-shirt that she’d clearly made herself. “It’s a new monologue each week, which really keeps it fresh. The singers are good enough. I mean, they’re not Equity good, but they’re good. Tons of coughing old people in the audience. And the best part? No $18 concession stand wine. It’s all free!”
Much like Ms. Ballentine, theatre critic Ben McElhanney was new to the church-going experience, but commended the performance for both its plot and presentation.
“The whole thing’s, like, a semi-immersive one-man show about a man who did some pretty crazy things, then was killed for it, then - huge twist - comes back to life in the end. They borrowed a lot of the plot from Jesus Christ Superstar, but I didn’t mind. I gave the whole thing a standing ovation, which seemed to scare the coughing old people around me.”
When asked whether or not she’d return, Ballentine said it all depended on when Broadway reopens.
“They say it’ll be late summer or early fall, so we’ll see. But I hear these guys do a fun holiday show around Christmastime, so I might try and get tickets for that. Anyone know their rush policy?”