Review: Daytime Star James Kiberd’s Riveting New Play

AMC star James Kiberd in The Crusade of Connor Stephens.

The Crusade of Connor Stephens, starring AMC and OLTL vet James Kiberd, hits on several salient, timely topics.

Serious Subject Matter

Off-Broadway is where many noted plays get their start, and the new production of playwright and director Dewey Moss’s play, The Crusade of Connor Stephens should be no exception in the up-and-coming noted department. The play, which recently opened, stars All My Children (Trevor) and Loving (Mike) favorite James Kiberd in the role of formidable yet troubled Texas preacher Big Jim.

To sum up, the drama involves the repercussions and fallout after a school shooting tragically, and mistakenly, takes the life of a little girl, who is the adopted daughter of Big Jim’s son, Jim Jr., (Ben Curtis) and his partner, Kris (Alec Shaw). The whole scenario unfolds in the family’s living room, before and after the girl’s service. A young parishioner at Big Jim’s church named Connor Stephens was the shooter, who subsequently committed suicide. Stephens is prompted by one of the pastor’s anti-gay sermons to perpetuate the violence, with Jim Jr. as the intended target. Suffice to say that when Big Jim makes his appearance about halfway into the first act, the audience is in for a gripping ride.

Larger Than Life

Kiberd’s Big Jim stands out, as his larger than life persona and bigoted points of view against his gay son’s lifestyle take center stage. His sermonizing might seem a bit heavy handed; however, it drives the point home of how intolerance and a long-hidden family secret have splintered not only his relationship with his son but have served to threaten his family’s foundation. They all are subsequently forced to confront some ugly truths, both about the aforementioned secret and their reactions to it.

Kiberd acts the part of Big Jim with fervor and passion, virtually disappearing into the character’s charged persona. The rest of the cast inhabits their roles effectively, especially Big Jim’s mother, wheelchair-bound Grandma Vivi’n (Kathleen Huber) who, though of an older, ostensibly more conservative generation, steps up and speaks the truth, which especially stuns not only Big Jim but his compliant yet long-simmering wife, Marianne (Katherine Leask), who seems torn between accepting her son as he is yet railing against a lifestyle which she does not accept. Vivi’n not only stands out as the voice of truth but as the voice of reason in the piece. One by one, all the characters, except for perhaps Marianne, seem to all form a wall of sorts to distance themselves from Big Jim and his loathsome rhetoric.

Issues to Ponder

The message that The Crusade of Connor Stephens conveys might come across as being as “subtle” as being struck with a two-by-four. However, it’s imperative to look deeper at the whole spectrum of issues that arise from it; most notably, tolerance, acceptance, and forgiveness. The play is affecting and gives the audience lots to think about.

I highly recommend all AMC and Loving, and dear Soap Cities readers, see it.

For tickets, showtimes, and lots more information, click here.

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Christine is a native New Yorker and freelance writer who now lives in southwestern Connecticut. She is a longtime, avid soap fan who has always had an affinity for ABC soaps, in particular her favorite, General Hospital. (She will even tell you she sleeps, eats and breathes that soap!) She is passionate about the soap genre, and in addition she enjoys traveling, attending plays and musicals, reading biographies and various pursuits in between. She was a political science/history major, English minor and has published a book of paranormal short stories under her nom de plume, Prudence MacGregor.

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