The Rep Offers Tempting Tale
“The Fall From Heaven” examines the wages of sin.
If you found yourself standing at the Pearly Gates and St. Peter condemned you to hell, would you go?
Mosley, prolific writer of science fiction, children's books, essays, and the “Easy Rawlin's” detective series, creates an interesting premise in the play.
Mortals must willingly accept their fate, otherwise Heaven will come crashing down and Satan will reign.
As the play opens, Tempest (Bryan Terrell Clark) stands on a busy Harlem street juggling two phone conversations—one from his wife and one from his girlfriend—when he is gunned down by cops in a case of mistaken identity.
Next stop, the Pearly Gates.
St. Peter condemns Tempest to hell for a life of transgressions, but Tempest doesn't think the “time fits the crime,” and so he refuses to go.
St. Peter is shaken—no one has ever refused his judgment before—and he sends Tempest back to earth to come to terms with his fate, sending along Joshua Angel (Corey Allen) to help Joshua see the errors of his ways and accept St. Peter's decision.
What follows is a battle of wills between Tempest and Angel, each trying to convince the other that their belief is the correct one.
Tempest instinctively understands that Angel isn't taking into consideration what it is to be human. He wasn't that bad of a guy, after all, just doing what had to be done to survive the mean streets and live life in a hard world.
For Angels part, he will gradually learn what it takes to live as a human—with a demanding boss, a secretary with an attitude and bills, bills, bills. When Tempest introduces Angel to his girlfriend, Branwyn (Kenya Brome), he also will learn what it is to love.
There are some interesting questions raised in the play. Are sins written in black and white, or are there shades of gray? We will learn that Tempest saved Branwyn's life when she was a complete stranger, getting her the medical treatment she needed to live, but he did it with a stolen insurance card. Was it a sin?
Even Satan himself will get into the act battling for Tempest's soul, when he shows up as Basil Bob (Jeffrey C. Hawkins), the anglicized name for Beelzebub. If he can get Tempest to renounce St. Peter, he will become more powerful than ever.
Bryan Terrell Clark turns in a solid performance as Tempest, cocky and charming, and though I would have liked to see him reach more levels, he was easy to root for and he got the laughs when called for.
As Joshua Angel, Corey Allen was strong and proper, always stiff-backed in posture and deportment, like you would expect an Angel to be, and he gradually became human effectively.
The actresses in the show were a highlight. Kenya Brome as Branwyn shined. Her performance was compelling and sincere and it was easy to understand how an angel—who's supposed to be above such human frailties—would fall head over heels for her.
Rachel Leslie in a variety of roles was fascinating to watch, slipping in and out of characters as easily as putting on a pair of slippers, and she came very close to stealing the show.
Seth Gordon's direction was fine, and he got some strong performances from his actors while using the set to its full advantage.
The set by Robert Mark Morgan was effective at times—especially when the windows were lit from behind to resemble stained glass. But when the walls automatically raised to allow the platforms to glide in and out repeatedly, it all became distracting.
The costumes by Myrna Colley-Lee were unobstrusive—meaning they were absolutely right—and Michael Lincoln's lights were effective without drawing attention away from the action.
The Fall of Heaven will be presented by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, 130 Edgar Rd, Jan. 5-30, at the Loretto-Hilton Center. For tickets and information call the box office at 314-968-4925, or visit the Repertory Theater of St. Louis website.