Front Row Reviewers

Morag Shepherd’s Original Work Worship

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

Review By Elise C. Hanson, Front Row Reviewers

Local playwright Morag Shepherd presents her latest work to the Salt Lake stage with Worship, a piece echoing and examining the real-life case in which a BYU professor was accused of inappropriate conduct with some of his students. The work is presented in four scenes, each showcasing a conversation between the single male character M (Nick Mathews), with four women in his life. Through these conversations, Shepherd probes the notion of how certain systems have imbalances of power so thoroughly baked in that it is easy for those without power to fall prey without full awareness.

The space is small, a simple square room with a mattress in the center and 25 seats situated around it. All around the space, white sheets create a sense of a purified, almost sacred arena, or at least an arena that wants to be considered sacred. Balanced and specific music choices move the play along, setting the tone as each scene unfolds. In the first scene, Ainslie Shepherd portrays M’s twelve-year-old daughter, buoyantly flitting about the stage, teasing him, describing a dream she had about Jesus chasing her in a mall, and confessing to losing her mother’s prized gold watch. The script utilizes certain imagery and verbiage to echo throughout the play, connecting the four female characters. Mentions of Rome, a gold watch, Santa at the mall–among other things–create a floating thread through the narrative that sets off a light in the viewer’s mind.

The second scene has Brynn Duncan as a BYU undergrad speaking with her professor about some texts they had exchanged, questioning whether their relationship is becoming too familiar. In depicting the occurrence on which the play is based, Duncan and Matthews face a challenge that they meet with nuance and complexity, led along by thoughtful dialogue from Shepherd. The two actors seem to bear an acute awareness and understanding of what they are performing, executing the task with grace and humanity, which is a difficult undertaking and one suited to attentive and considerate artists.

In the third scene, Renny Grames sparkles as the single character not under M’s “god given” thrall. Detached and worldly, Grames’s character takes M to task, dancing through fun and flirtatious, to acerbic and cynical, to potent and violent, showing every shade with natural and fluid finesse. Her turn crackles onstage, compelling the audience to sit up and listen to the questions and emotionality her character poses, particularly toward the end of her scene.

Finally, Ariana Farber takes the stage as M’s long-suffering wife, whose saintlike charity toward the person with whom she is partnered proffers further contemplation. Farber is sweet and bright in the role, immediately winning and sympathetic. As M berates himself in an increasingly self-indulgent manner, her criticism of his self deprecation is relatable and wise. Sitting with this final scene propounds the outlook of the script, which remains hovering in the air as the play concludes.

Worship explores difficult subject matter and is therefore recommended to mature audiences. This evocative and interesting piece is lovely in the small space at the Utah Arts Hub room in which it is performed, and this important investigation is made all the more compelling as told by a Utah playwright.

Immigrant’s Daughter Theater Company presents Worship by Morag Shepherd.
Utah Arts Hub, Utah Arts Alliance, 663 W 100 S Salt Lake City UT 84104
October 7-21, 2023 Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 PM
Tickets: $30
SLC Arts Hub—Utah Arts Alliance Facebook page
Immigrant’s Daughter Facebook Page
Photo credit: Mickelle Weber
Worship video

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers


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