Winner of the 2001 Montreal English Critics’ Award for best new play, John Mounsteven’s This I Know completely lives up to all the hype attributed to it.
A graduate from Concordia in 2000, Mounsteven has studied acting, but for the past two years, he has been focusing mainly on writing for stage, radio, and music.
This I Know is his first play and it had its debut at the Montreal Fringe Festival in September 2001.
Since winning the prestigious award, he has reworked the script and added a couple of new songs to complete the play for this second production.
In This I Know, three people (John Mounsteven, Sarah Bezanson, and Jason Howell) who have been scarred to varying degrees by their childhood experiences of coming to terms with religion, recount their stories at a gathering organized by Joseph Smith, played by Jory Berger, the founder of a new religion.
Berger is unveiling his faith for the first time tonight to these three lost souls and to all those people who will stop and listen, incorporating the audience into the play at the same time.
It may not sound like much, a rather simplistic idea at the core, but Mounsteven manages to present the already over-done subject of religion in a new light.
Using gentle satirical comedy and snappy dialogue, the play explores some of the terrible things that have been done in the name of organized religion, while at the same time looks at human beings’ basic yearning for truth and beauty which leads people to becoming followers of religions.
The playwright also plays on people’s fears and desire to be accepted as part of a group.
A singer-songwriter at heart, Mounsteven also incorporates songs into the play, adapting church hymns into barbershop quartet-type numbers, ranging in subject matter from love, to religion, to the atom bomb.
And to think that the whole production starts off with the Father Joseph character arriving late to the meeting, causing the audience to wonder if this was part of the staged performance or not.
We are then immersed into the play, becoming captivated by these poor people’s accounts of childhood experiences of finding God, gone bad.
When he is not busy writing, co-directing along with Sarah Blumel, and acting in This I Know, Mounsteven is working on a second album project after having finished writing and recording a first music album of original songs entitled Johnny Moon.
In the end, I know that this is a play well worth seeing, especially for those of us who have ever doubted there even being a God.
And the cookies at the end are just bonus to this 60 minute long journey to re-discovering God.
This I Know plays at the Infinitheatre (3956A St-Laurent) until February 10th, call (514) 987-1774 ext. 104.