Forum Theatre continues its investigations into questions of faith with Kara Lee Corthron’s Holly Down in Heaven. The Holly of the title (the self-possessed) is a precocious 15-year-old who has placed herself in what she describes as religious exile for the term of her unintended pregnancy. Self-banished to the basement, she bickers with her tutor Mia (Dawn Thomas) and manipulates her preternaturally doting father (affable KenYatta Rogers) (a Steve Douglas lacking in tough love), but her deepest conversations are with the heterogeneous members of her extensive doll collection. And these dolls talk back, led by a marionette of Carol Channing (manipulated and voiced by the skilled Vanessa Strickland), the only therapist whose advice the fragile Holly will heed. We are cautioned against false gods, but it’s not the dolls that constitute Holly’s idolatry; rather, perhaps it is her own believed self-sufficiency.
As perhaps we would expect, Mia has issues of her own, which Thomas divulges (nay, it’s more like an evisceration) in a bravura second-act monologue. (And she does a fine Carol Channing riff, too.) But it’s the off-the-beaten-track storytelling of the puppets that’s the real charmer of this show. So strong are these alter egos of Holly that they conduct their own colloquy at the end of the first act, without Holly even being in the room.
- Holly Down in Heaven, by Kara Lee Corthron, directed by Michael Dove, Forum Theatre, Silver Spring, Md.