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So . . . it’s all about the words. Which is what makes this weekend’s By the Sea Productions staged reading of Jason Odell Williams’ play Church & State so powerful.

Doesn’t matter what side of the debate you are on . . . and there are many questions here to choose from: separation of church and state, the second amendment, the power of prayer, thoughts vs. actions, politicians speaking from the heart vs. telling constituents what they want to hear.

If you have an opinion on any of these topics—on any side of these issues—this play, this production, is worth seeing. Most importantly, it’s worth listening to.

Director Janice Peters, a driving force in presenting thoughtful and entertaining live theatre on the Central Coast, has chosen a perfect drama to present in reader’s theatre style. It’s timely, thought-provoking (with some good one-liners), and worth the one-and-a-half hours of your time to go and experience it. Especially if you have not experienced this type of presentation, where the actors don’t memorize their lines; they are reading from their scripts with a minimum of props and other accoutrements. That helps keep the focus on the words, the ideas, the force of their delivery.

That’s not to say the accoutrements here don’t count. In particular the costumes convey subtle direction and commentary, as do the sounds . . . of gunshots, of patriotic music, of “live” news coverage.

By the Sea Productions is offering Church & State for three performances only over one weekend, July 22-24. If you need an excuse to spend just a little time with topics that couldn’t be more current, here are a few reasons to choose from: consider supporting live, local theatre; consider supporting rational, informed discussion; consider supporting actors David Rousseve, Lisa Woske, Nicolette Tempesta, Samvel Gottlieb, Jatzibe Sandoval, and Sonya Jackson, as well as crew members Rhonda Crowfoot and Bryan Easton, who along with Peters have volunteered their time and talents to bring this show through COVID to a Central Coast audience.

You may be unsettled by your reaction to the play’s meaty, considered, and nonjudgemental words, but you won’t be disappointed.

:: Charlotte Alexander