"If I let myself go and become a character, how will I get back to myself? Who will I get back to?" asks Bridget, the protagonist of Carol Schaefer's powerful The Sacred Virgin. When Bridget, a successful businesswoman who has always longed to act, receives a letter from the child she surrendered for adoption 20 years ago, she is shocked into confronting memories that may help her reconcile herself to the life she has led in the intervening years, memories already stirred up by the processes used in the acting class she has recently joined and that serves as the catalyst for the action of Schaefer's play.
Schaefer's book The Other Mother: A Woman's Love for the Child She Gave Up for Adoption was adapted for TV and is one of Lifetime Channel's most popular movies, and it must be said that there is a certain "issues movie" ambience permeating The Sacred Virgin. There are flashbacks to Bridget's incarceration in a home for unwed mothers run by that universally recognized bastion of sympathy, warmth, and understanding, the Catholic Church. Bridget's acting class is populated by the requisite stock acting-student characters, and everything is approached with the clockwork regularity adhered to by the impositions of a time slot. However, Schaefer has written an undeniably moving piece, and she covers both sides of a thorny issue (the rights of the adopted child vs. the rights of the birth parents to keep their anonymity, or not) with a strong point of view but without taking sides.
Paula M. Berger directed the production with nearly seamless precision, and if she approached the material with a humorless reverence that was nearly as heavy-handed as the show's title, she did elicit strong performances from her cast. (Note: the production was double cast -- the names of the alternate cast members appear below.) As Bridget, Rebecca Hewitt appeared to be a good 10 years younger than her character but nevertheless delivered a first-class performance that beautifully balanced all of Bridget's fears, hopes, and anger. Dane Anton Aska was equally riveting as another member of Bridget's acting class, a man young enough to be Bridget's son. The parallels may have been a bit too obvious, but Aska played the role with a genuine simplicity that made it work.
No one was credited for the sets, costumes, or lighting, but the production was sensibly spare, leaving the way clear for the performances and the script to make a case for themselves, which despite a few bumps in the road, they absolutely did.
(Also featuring Sharon Abramzon, Tanisha Eanes, Meredith Faltin, Alexander Lange, and Suzanne Saidi. Alternate Cast: Meg Asarow, Siluo Gompah, Brianna Hansen, Jonny Lewis, Rebecca Lovett, Deirdre Schwiesow, and Peter Stewart.)
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Copyright 2002 Doug DeVita