"Wretch Like Me" by David Templeton at Sixth Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa CA

Wow and a half! How sweet the sound…

By Suzanne and Greg Angeo

Part of Sixth Street Playhouse’s SoloFest of the West, “Wretch Like Me” is a relentlessly funny, affectionate and sometimes wistful chronicle by storyteller David Templeton. Beginning with his miserable boyhood and ending with his high school days, he single-handedly relates the events that led him from fundamentalist Christianity to ultimately becoming “un-born again”. Templeton is like the alchemist of old: he takes something common – insecurity, desire for acceptance, disappointment - and makes it into something precious and of great value in telling his tale.

Set mostly in the 1970s in Downey, California, his wacky narrative unfolds in the intimate setting of Sixth Street’s Studio Theatre, which gives the feeling you are at a party in his living room, listening to him reminisce about the characters he knew - the Jesus Lady, Reverend Dude at Happy Chapel, and his zealous girlfriend Cindy who takes her devotion to God a bit too far with side-splitting results.

His approach is somewhat Carlin-esque, a sort of conversational standup comedy routine which can have him dashing about the small stage area, pacing, sitting with the audience or even lying on the floor, making good use of simple props that include invisible hand puppets, a giant yellow smiley-face, a sofa and, of course, a bible. Director David Yen’s creative staging enhances Templeton’s solo delivery, allowing him to engage the audience in every direction, no matter where they are sitting. However, the sound and lighting might need a little tweaking. Period rock songs serve as perfect musical cues to signal each new chapter in the story, but at times they almost drown out his voice, and lights shine directly in the audience’s eyes which can be distracting.

“Wretch Like Me” is an eccentric first-hand account of how a lonely kid was lost, then found, and then found himself. His eventual disillusionment with his Jesus Freak friends springs from their human foibles, and some of his own, but he emerges a happier man with fond memories of the time that he is generous to share with us. We come away feeling richer and more joyful for the experience.

When: August 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th at 8:00 p.m., and August 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets: $20 to $25 (general seating)
Location: Studio Theatre at Sixth Street Playhouse
52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa CA
Phone: 707-523-4185
Website: www.6thstreetplayhouse.com