Saving Michael

Anwuzia's first production, "Saving Michael," is a story of betrayal and pain; a true test of love, faith and forgiveness.

While speaking with Georgiana Anwuzia, playwright and director of "Saving Michael," before the debut of the play on May 30 at Art Centre Theatre, she spoke of wanting to create a reality in drama that resonates with a younger audience. She wanted to bring the appreciation and love of theater to this generation.

If the production company that she is the president of, OverTake productions, keeps bringing scripts and characters like this to life, I believe that she has the potential to make this happen.

This is the story of a passionate love triangle and at the center of it all is the main character, Michael, played by Tony Williams. A 28-year-old preacher's son who's soul turned black after losing his mother at a young age and not getting the affection and attention he needed from his father. He finds the love of his life, Bridgette, played by Perri Camper, and marries her, but has had, an continued to have an affair with his wife's best friend, Hannah, played by Lola Wilson, who is beginning to fall in love with him. He doesn't see the error in his ways until he discovers that his wife has stage 3 ovarian cancer, the same type of cancer that killed Bridgette's mother when she was a child.

To make matters worse, Hannah decides to pay Michael a visit under the guise of checking on her sick best friend and she drops a bombshell on Michael and, unbenounced to her, Bridgette.

This story through it all is about the courage of love and how galliant faith is in the end. It's about forgiveness and being selfless. It's about life and what we make of it.

The first two words that come to mind when I think of "Saving Michael" are captivating and familiar. From the opening scene when Michael is getting dressed again at Hannah's apartment, you already know what time it is. The cloud of infidelity that loomed over the theatre was almost palpable because of how raw and unadulterated both Hannah and Michael are.

The choice of venue was perfect for this production because it felt so intimate. The audience was such a short distance from the stage, so I felt the full impact of every movement, every inflection, every tear. I felt like Bridgette's best friend and clearly other women in the audience did too because during the scene when Bridgette discovers Michael has been cheating on her with Hannah, she angrily asks Michael how long it's been happening and a sassy lady in the audience shouted, "2 years." That's how invested everyone was in her feelings and I think that is a testament to the phenominal writing skills of Georgiana and the immense talent of Perri as an actress.

There is a familiarity with the characters and the scenarios that instantly drew me in and I'm sure tons of audience members could feel that and relate. I once (keyword: once) had a best friend just like Hannah, a boyfriend pretty similar to Michael and I have a guy friend who's probably heard far too much about my "love life" just like Thomas, played by Nathan Therman.

Thomas was the sweet, supportive, best friend everyone hopefully has. He added much needed comic relief to the play as things started to progress and get intense. I love that, though he was going away to Cape Town, South Africa to do mission work, his biggest vice is wine but he palms his glass like a Bud Light and gulps it like a Vegas Bomb. I loved his character and, in my mind, Nathan Therman is my new best friend. He did a superb job with this role, but it was a bit hard to sit through when he was present as Bridgette begins to give some more "intimate" details of her honeymoon with Hannah. I think that came off a bit more awkward than Georgiana anticipated when she wrote it. I don't know any guy who would want to hear about any of that coming from a girl who's like a sister to him. That was a little strange.

This story is multifacited and rich. The language was beautiful and fluid. Sometimes, too beautiful or calculated to believe someone actually said it out loud.

Perri Camper, who played Bridgitte, was the stand out actor for me. She was absolutely phenominal. I felt her pain. I felt her happiness. I felt her anger. All of her emotions were infectious. I could tell that she had a real connection to the character and that everything was  coming from a place of realness.

However, there was quite a bit of overacting from some of the other actors. I think it did a disservice to Lola Wison's character, Hannah, and the script to be so overworked and overacted. I could tell the passion was there, but it diluted the script a bit. In other parts of the play, every word seemed meaningful and honest, but in others, the over exaggeration outshined the purpose of each word and the purpose of each emotion. However, I don't think that it detracted from the story.

These points are important because we feel invested in plays, films and TV shows as viewers because we can relate to them or because they are multidementional, which feels real to us. That's why I felt so connected to Bridgette or I was able to understand Michael's actions, even though I didn't like him as a person. Everything played out as you can imagine it would in real life and the characters evolved with it.

Georgiana crafted these characters beautifully.

One thing that resonated with me was the spirit of Bridgette. Here is this young woman who's just gotten married and is working on having a child with her husband, but finds out she has cancer. But all the while she has chemo, she didn't phone it in and where a ratty t-shirt and yoga pants every day. She had a head wrap on, but she had on a denim moto jacket with leather sleeves. She accessorized every day. She was young and she knew that this was unfair, but she wouldn't let cancer rob her of the small part of her youth she could hold on to. I thought that was powerful and I think that this play is a wake up call to tons of people who assume cancer, or death for that matter, is only for older people. It's not.

This message really hit me hard because, a few hours before driving to Plano to see this play, I found out that a dear friend of mine died. After I found that out, I honestly dreaded seeing the play because I knew death was the central theme, but, in a way, this play was sort of like a therapy session. It helped me sort through my thoughts about a friend I'd known since I was seven-years-old dying so young.

All in all, I think Georgiana Anwuzia did a phenominal job with her directorial debut.

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