By Kathy Carpenter
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7 . Lamb’s Players Theatre Presents “Cotton Patch Gospel.,” Based on the book written by Clarence Jordan, a New Testament Greek scholar and farmer. Directed and choreographed by Deborah Gilmour Smyth, Associate Artistic Director, a seasoned theater veteran who has dedicated many years to Lamb’s Players Theatre, “Cotton Patch Gospel,” is a southern down-home interpretation of the gospel according to Matthew and John. It is a toe-tapping, spiritual, rejuvenation.
In “Cotton Patch Gospel,” the timeless Gospel stories of Matthew and John receive a unique Southern twist. The plot unfolds in the backdrop of the American South, where Jesus is born in Gainesville, Georgia, during the mid-20th century. The narrative follows the life of Jesus, from his humble birth in a trailer to his ministry and ultimate crucifixion.
The story intertwines both biblical accounts and contemporary elements. Jesus, portrayed as a compassionate and revolutionary figure, challenges societal norms and fights against oppression. His teachings and miracles are re-imagined in a Southern context, addressing issues of racism, poverty, and social injustice.
As Jesus gathers a diverse group of disciples, they journey together, spreading his message of love, redemption, and hope. The production combines foot-stomping music, lively performances, and heartfelt moments to bring the Gospel stories to life in an engaging and relatable way. Yet, even with great music.(I loved the banjo, fiddle, and accordion,) and the delightful cast, and transformative messages, I felt a sense of disconnect, like I wasn’t quite there. I didn’t feel the jubilation, but maybe it was just me, as everything was fine.
The three-man cast of “Cotton Patch Gospel” delivered memorable performances, captivating the audience. Bryan Barbarin, portraying Johnny, breathed life into the character of Jesus, taking us on a soul-stirring journey. Michael Louis Cusimando, in the role of Matthew, continues to deliver as an actor, leaving a lasting impact. Lastly, Ernest Sauceda, portraying Rock, proved to be a small powerhouse.. The performances by the cast were not only skillful but also endearing, touching the audience with their heartfelt portrayals.
A big part of this production is the band. They are onstage interacting with the cast the entire show, along with providing the amazing down-home Bluegrass sounds of Georgia. Shout out to Shawn Rohif, band leader, Greg Campbell, Oliver Shirley, and Brandon Wallace,
The set design of “Cotton Patch Gospel” showcases a magnificent barn-like facade, reminiscent of the charming aesthetic you might encounter at Knott’s Berry Farm. The ambience of the set transports the audience into the heart of the Southern atmosphere, immersing them in a world that feels authentic.The costumes in the production exude a delightful Hee Haw-inspired style, perfectly capturing the essence of Southern fashion. While Hee Haw may be an older show, the timeless appeal of Southern attire remains largely unchanged. The costumes effortlessly evoke the spirit of the region, enhancing the visual storytelling of the production.
Through this Southern retelling, “Cotton Patch Gospel” illuminates the timeless truths of the Gospel, inviting audiences to reflect on faith, justice, and the transformative power of love.
Cotton Patch Gospel
Lamb’s Players Theatre
1142 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118
Opens September 30th, 2023
The World Premiere of David Mcfadzean’s
exciting adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece
Jane Eyre set in the !930’s.