Review: Catherine Bush’s “Though the Mountains May Fall”

though the mountainsThough the Mountains May Fall
By Catherine Bush

Reviewed by Jaculyn Hanrahan, CND
Appalachian Faith & Ecology Center

Our increasingly beloved The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us now has another voice among the emerging stories of our third Appalachian “People’s Pastoral.” Sunday, August 21, 2016 introduced the nascent play Though the Mountains May Fall by Catherine Bush, playwright in residence for the Barter Theater, in Abingdon, VA. Each year since 2000, the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights (AFPP) celebrates the richness of Appalachian culture by showcasing stories of the region and the inspiration it provides writers. This year Catherine’s submission of Though the Mountains May Fall joined the ranks as one of the six readings done at the Festival. The play is the fourth installment of Bush’s Mud Creek series.

Eight Barter actors and Director Andrew Hampton Livingston presented the reading in the smaller Barter II Stage to a full house audience. Even without any staging, but with good acting and fine casting, the piece placed us squarely in the heart of the living mosaic of injustices that engage and challenge each one of us in Central Appalachia today. Bush’s work particularly captures the “strangeness and uniqueness” which is often the Catholic reality here as church folks try to navigate the waters of the same issue laden voices expressed in the third pastoral. I was very aware as I experienced this performance that I was listening for those voices, of the marginalized within the mainstream, and I wasn’t disappointed. The pastoral itself is not mentioned explicitly in the play, but clearly Catherine Bush understands “catholic” as well as this pastoral. I’ve only seen one other play in her Mud Creek series, so I know I missed many of the allusions to those other works which must have been present in this new play. I want to make up that gap because it will enhance my appreciation of the newest piece.

The audience discussion following the reading of Though The Mountains May Fall made note of the many justice issues in the play and to what degree it was issue driven, character driven, or faith driven. Who was the actual protagonist? There was also comment about the degree to which this work is a comedy or a drama, because clearly both are present throughout the play. It is a contemporary play, taking situations right from our current global and national news. It is a Catholic play, not so much due our Catholic creedal beliefs as it is of our catholic tradition of social justice, rooted in the gospel and centuries of witness by saints and sinners. It is a catholic play because of the Pope Francis factor and the fascination he evokes in so many non-Catholics.

I’m still processing the impact of this play on me. The former English teacher in me is imagining how it would be staged. The CCA member in me is thinking of how it could be and might be shared with various audiences even in conjunction with the actual pastoral. And the Catholic woman and sister in me is challenged by the faith and vulnerability of the lead, Fr. Timothy Ryan, and wonders why it is that the priest is the lead. I can identify with the strength of the women characters, the complexity and interconnectedness of the issues in this play that surround most of us every day, and the goodness that happens, the hope that is held, when we push against the voices that try to deny what we know is true. Good job, Catherine Bush.

I certainly look forward to the full production of the play Though the Mountains May Fall. Let’s do this again.

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