`Father Joy' adds touch of fancy

July 17, 2005|By J. Wynn Rousuck

The sole play in this summer's Contemporary American Theater Festival that doesn't deal with politics, terrorism or militarism is Sheri Wilner's Father Joy. It's also the most imaginative of the four offerings.

The musical Chicago includes a song called Mister Cellophane about a man who's such a nonentity, people see right through him. In Father Joy, the father (Jonathan Bustle) of a budding sculptress named Abigail (a pitch-perfect Kaci Gober) is literally disappearing. He's fading more and more each day.

Meanwhile, Abigail has begun a relationship with one of her former professors, an artist (Michael Goodwin) twice her age - a father figure, perhaps?

Abigail's love life and her father's vanishing act have her mother at wit's end. (Carolyn Swift's overwrought portrayal is the only off-note among the performances, directed by Pam MacKinnon on a set whose creative furnishings are a collection of ever-changing modules.)

Then it turns out that Dad is shedding a sandlike substance, which just might be the answer to Abigail's search for her sculptural medium. If so, he has a chance to leave a legacy to his daughter, to prove his love and not be a nonentity after all.

Buying into the fanciful world of Father Joy requires a leap of faith, but if you make that leap, you're rewarded with a touching account of father-daughter relationships, parental love and the magical nature of the creative process.

Theater Festival

Where: Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, W.Va. (80 miles west of Baltimore; take Interstate 70 west to U.S. 340 west to Route 230 north)

When: In repertory Wednesdays-Sundays, through July 31

Tickets: $28 and $33

Call: 800-999-CATF or go online to catf.org for show times

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