This Far by Faith | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

This Far by Faith 

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This Far By Faith, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. It might sound like a simple retelling of The Jazz Singer. But the conflict between a man of the cloth and his pop-star son is only the beginning of This Far by Faith, a musical morality tale by Marylene Whitehead and Rufus Hill. The Reverend Benson is also the target of an ouster engineered by elders opposed to his Afrocentric approach to theology, while Buddy Jr. has fallen into the clutches of his femme-fatale manager--a relationship complicated by the sudden reemergence of his long-absent sweetheart with his now-grown son.

We know that all these trials will end with everyone back on the right road--even Deacon Dipsin and Sister Havalot, who begin as the reverend's nemeses and finish as his allies. But first the usual issues--paternal responsibility, the folly of pride, courtesy to the opposite sex--must be explored and the appropriate lessons pronounced. What keeps this sermon from growing tedious is the lively, tuneful score, which incorporates a variety of sacred and secular musical genres, and the allegory-sized performances of a talented, enthusiastic cast (especially Llou Johnson and Eva D. as a pair of delightfully reprehensible villains). Special credit is also due to the technical crew, who recovered well when inclement weather disabled all but the follow spots and work lights. This Far by Faith is more reaffirmation than argument, but the ETA production makes it all seem fresh.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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