REVIEW: There are so many layers to Burien Actors Theatre’s Church & State

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From left to right, Tom (Max Lopuszynski) snaps a selfie with Senator Charles Whitmore (Gianni Truzzi) in the dramedy Church & State, written by Jason Odell Williams, performing at Burien Actors Theatre through May 20. Photo by Michael Brunk /

From left to right, Sara (Brynne Garman) holds her husband Senator Charles Whitmore (Gianni Truzzi) in the dramedy Church & State, written by Jason Odell Williams, performing at Burien Actors Theatre through May 20. Photo by Michael Brunk /

From left to right, Senator Charles Whitmore (Gianni Truzzi) discusses the speech he is about to give with his wife, Sara (Brynne Garman) and campaign manager, Alex Klein (Caitlin Gilman) while Secret Service (Max Lopuszynski) watches in the background in the dramedy Church & State, written by Jason Odell Williams. The play performs at Burien Actors Theatre through May 20. Photo by Michael Brunk /

By Shelli Park

The latest production by Burien Actors Theatre is very timely in light of the many mass shootings which have occured over the last few years.

It can be difficult to digest the scope of this tragic trend.

One role that art plays in society is to help the individual process challenging topics in various settings, fostering new thinking, and introduce the artist’s point of view. In the case of Church & State author Jason Odell Williams softens the absorption of tragedy with humor.

There are powerful questions addressed in Church & State. The gun issue isn’t the biggest one of the bunch. Personal truth, faith, identity and the psychology of politics are, in my opinion, the more pressing issues, as, in sorting these things out, as individuals, they can possibly lead to healing the causes behind the gun issue.

Senator Charles Whitmore’s journey is fascinating to watch. The impact that his inner journey has on his campaign manager and his wife is a wonderful case study in human behavior and the ring of influence each of us has on those around us. Politicians have a powerful stage from which to manipulate. On the other hand, the will of the people, the loudest among them, can be a bit overwhelming for an individual on an honest path to do what is right on the behalf of all costituents.

Whitmore, played by Gianni Truzzi, is in the thick of a reelection campaign. He was caught in the act of being honest and it is the turning point in his campaign.

“How can you believe in a god who would let something like this happen?”

Truzzi is wonderful on stage. He looks very much the consummate politician, but he presents as a man who is tired of the game. Truzzi creates a solid audience experience of his character. He is very believable, and it is easy to identify with his struggle.

Senator Whitmore is surrounded by two strong women who hope to guide him to the outcome they would like to see, Whitmore’s will be damned. Alex Klein (Caitlin Gilman) is Whitmore’s campaign manager. She is strong-willed, opinionated and has no qualms in talking over her client. Alex is a Democrat, which is an interesting detail writer Williams wrote into the story to add to his statement, as Whitmore is a Republican. Alex has ambitions, and as an outspoken New Yorker, she is determined to ‘guide’ Whitmore in the direction she feels will grant her her future success. She has high aspirations. Gilman took a bit to warm up to the role of Alex. It is a tough one. The character must speak over one another a lot, and sustaining that kind of concentration and energy in a natural way is very difficult. She pulls off the New York accent fairly well (I really hope, as I write this, that she isn’t a native speaker) but it seems to slip from time to time, which is a distraction.

Alex’s competition for Whitmore’s attention is the Senator’s wife, Sara. She, also, is a strong woman. Brynne Garman plays the middle-aged Southern Belle who is determined to see her husband succeed. The competition between the women is palpable. They clash, but, also, to their surpise, agree on some things. The bond they create over the show, and the side commentary on expectations of women’s roles in America is well-written. Garman is good in her role. Garman and Gilman create a believable antagonism, and then, bond, although I wasn’t as convinced by the chemistry between Truzzi and Garman. Garman is a lovable and hilarious drunk, and by the end of the play I was won over by her presence.

By the end of the play Alex and Sara have both blossomed through their shared campaign experiences, and the actors left me with a good feeling.

This production was co-directed by Rochelle H. Flynn and Maggie Larrick. The ladies guided this production in a strong and thoughtful manner. The stage direction creates the movement needed to elevate tensions when needed, and creates intimate bonds when necessary.

Costuming by Vivian K. Smith was particularly strong in this production. Smith presents a clear visual trajectory which supports the storyline.

I didn’t get a chance to try the production-specific cocktails for this play (I have to keep a clear head when attending to review. Sigh…) but they sounded delicious.

There is a lot to this play. So many layers. And whether, or not, you agree with the author’s point of view, the journey, the drama, and emotional and psychological process which takes the characters to the conclusion is well worth the time taken to see the play. In a time where there is so much division, and so much shared tragedy, this play adresses those concerns and is also very entertaining.

Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. at Burien Actors Theatre, 14501 4th Ave. S.W. in Burien.

Ticket prices range from $7 to $20. Student tickets are just $10. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TIX 


Click image then print Coupon.

For tickets, special deals or other information, go to or call 206-242-5180.

Church & State is sponsored by the City of Burien, 4Culture and Pickled & Preserved

Stage directors Rochelle Flynn and Maggie Larrick direct the talented cast of Gianni Truzzi (Senator Charles “Charlie” Whitmore), Brynne Garman (Sara Whitmore), Caitlin Gilman (Alex Steinberg) and Max Lopuszynski (Tom/Marshall/Reporter/Security Guy). Heather Bernadette is the show’s stage manager.

Designers for the show are: Albie Clementi, set; Zanna King, lighting; Cyndi Baumgardner, props; Vivian K. Smith, costumes; Eric Dickman, sound; Gavin McLean, dialect coach.

The rumor was true – BAT has introduced BATcoin.

In an Oprah moment, everyone who came to the opening night of Church & State were given BATcoin.

BATcoin are rare, sought-after coins are only available from BAT. They come in one denomination only: $5.00.

You don’t have to data-mine to get BATcoin, but you do have to attend a performance at BAT (that’s only a good thing) and fill out an audience questionnaire. Then it is up to the theater fates. At every performance, BAT will give away two BATcoins to the lucky winner of a drawing from the BAT questioniares filled out at that performance.

You can also win BATcoin through the Whitmore selfie challenge (DETAILS HERE).

BATcoin is available for gift giving from BAT. BAT sells four BATcoins for just $20.00.

Don’t miss out on this amazing new currency. Your opportunity to score BATcoin is going on right now. You can get BATcoin through the run of Church & State, now through May 20, 2018.

BATcoin is redeemable at the most prestigious locations in Burien:

  • Armoire Chocolat (creators of the most amazing BAT chocolate bats!)
  • BAT’s box office
  • BAT’s concessions and bar
  • Burien Press
  • Phoenix Tea Shop (home of BALL, BAT’s lending library and supplier of the wonderful tea served at BAT)
  • Pickled & Preserved (supplier of BAT’s coffee and home of the best panini in King County)
  • Page 2 Books (home of a good read)

You can tell a retailer accepts BATcoin because there will be a sign near the cash register that says they accept BATcoin.

These businesses are very kind to BAT and they will knock your socks off with great staff and wonderful products. BAT believes in supporting Burien, especially these fine merchants. Even if you do not end up with BATcoin(s), please patronize these fine BAT supporters! They will make your trip to Burien all that more special.

Exciting live theater has been a tradition in Burien since 1955. Incorporated in 1980, Burien Actors Theatre has been a leading producer of quality live theater serving residents of the Seattle and south Puget Sound areas.

BAT gives audiences an intriguing and invigorating theatre experience with unusual and fantastical productions they can’t see on film or see anywhere else. The company’s mission is to treat audiences to productions of the highest artistic integrity that excite, engage and involve both the local and expanding theatrical communities in the Puget Sound region.

BAT is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) entity and operates on revenue from ticket sales, donations, grants, sponsorships and volunteers.

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