SALT LAKE CITY — The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival in Utah is special because it often showcases the most creative and interesting Mormon-based shows. I thought the premise for A Call To Serve: Confessions of a Mormon Hitman, by Jared Greathouse, was intriguing, and it certainly fulfilled the title’s description accurately. Decaf Acting Company was a new name, so I was excited to see a show produced by them. The first impression was not entirely positive because the production went 15 minutes over the scheduled time, though it started on time.
The set-up of this play was at the “pearly gates” which consisted of a courtroom with the defendant, Zachariah Beesley (played by Dallon Thorup), and the Judge (played by Ian Buckley), meeting for final judgement. The discrepancies in Zachariah’s file cause the Judge to ask him to relate all about his life, and he begins to reminisce.
Sterling Allen directed this play, and I enjoyed the little things he included that made it more interesting, like the judge munching on candy during Thorup’s long-winded descriptions and the voice-over of “God” speaking to Zachariah. Also, having Buckely seem to fall asleep during the speech was funny. However, the static staging made me wish there had been more movement to the show.
Though the title interested me, I was waiting a long time till I saw it actually come to fruition. An hour and seven minutes, to be precise. For a show that is set up to be an hour and 15 minutes, that seemed like an awfully long time for the main character to babble on and on without getting to what the show is said to be about. The last 20 minutes were full of all the stuff I had been expecting, and it was scary and creepy and everything that fit. I just wish the middle had been 15 minutes and the end section had taken up the hour.
The stories of Zachariah’s mission and marine duty were interesting, and I was waiting for them to be part of the reason for his strange power, or freedom from the law. But they didn’t seem to fit the end of the story of Zachariah as God’s hit-man. I also didn’t see how the story got to the very last few lines from the previous section. the script seemed to jump from one conclusion to the next. I was hoping for it all to make sense at the end. However, the ending effect was scary, and perhaps this show was meant to just be a scary story to tell in the dark.
I got the sense that this was similar to The Twilight Zone, where a last-minute plot twist shows that heaven is not the way anyone expects it to be. Playwright Jared Greathouse is a good writer, and I enjoyed that feeling of impending doom and the idea that anything could happen. I do wish the script had been more fluid in connecting the sections and had less unnecessary monologuing. It would be interesting to see A Call to Serve again after some improvements.