'Revival' links comedy sketches and folk music

By Eric McCrea



The former home of 34west Productions, the Dutch Village Inn is now the Ohio home of Ted & Company, the area’s newest theater group.

Halfway through its 2014 season, the Virginia-based troupe’s latest production, “St. John’s Revival,” features the musical talents of the Walking Roots Band.

After a delightful four-course meal, Ted Swartz provides biblically rooted comedy sketches to frame folk songs performed by Walking Roots members Greg Yoder and Seth Crissman (soon to be joined by others from the band). There is little to be said of the plot, but the great original folk music included in the show is sure to entertain.

Swartz delivers a myriad characters including the wise Solomon in a Cyrano de Bergerac situation. His strength lies in his timing and nuance with dialects.

However, in a show that’s comparable to “A Prairie Home Companion,” Swartz doesn’t quite have the ability to engross the audience with his monologues. Perhaps it’s because he’s missing that hypnotic timbre of Harrison Keillor.

Classic radio shows don’t always translate well to stage, but “St. John’s” has the potential to pull it off. Without the Keillor comparison in mind, Swartz’s performance is admirable. He’s not afraid to poke fun at his own inability to pluck a banjo, but his gong solo steals the show.

Yoder and Crissman are an impressive duo. Adept at a cornucopia of instruments, they cycle through saxophones, guitars, banjos, and the severely under-appreciated accordion.

Their instrumental talent is rivaled only by their vocal bravado. The duo’s instinct for harmony is precise and genre-appropriate.

Despite a pretty obvious hiccup with one of their songs, they warmed the audience with their original works, which included a “folk rap” and a reclaimed hymn.

While “St. John’s” is billed as “a combination of comedy sketches, biblical theater and original music built around a fictional struggling church,” it doesn’t have the structure of a traditional play.

There is little to no character development, and the scenes don’t flow with any sort of storyline. Nor is there a reference to said “struggling church,” and the sketches are disconnected.

It is more vaudevillian than cohesive, but the format does provide a great way to showcase the talents of Swartz and the Walking Roots.

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