An Almost Holy Picture isn't a play or even a convincing monologue. It's a bit like one of those charming NPR essays in which a small-town teacher describes a precocious child, a pleasant landscape, a small incident that illumined a larger truth for him. Such insights have an eight-minute appeal, but they pall at two hours.
Faced with a universe that's forever shimmering, and forced to deliver lines like "It's as if we suffered to repair something faulty in our natures" and "I put my garden to bed and love calls me," the stalwart Hutton falters. He loses his emotional clarity. An actor alone on a stage can electrify an audience, as Chris Tabb and Ann Rickhoff sequentially demonstrated in Everyman Theatre's Talking Heads last spring. But Rickhoff and Tabb were supported by the depth and intelligence of Alan Bennett's writing. I'd guess that An Almost Holy Picture is unactable.
In the wake of September 11, a lot of Americans talked about a crisis of faith and the difficulties of believing in a God who allowed such tragedies to happen. (You have to wonder how long these people had been sleeping: Even if Stalin, the Holocaust and Hiroshima occurred before their time, surely they had heard of Rwanda?) Still, the reality of suffering and the possibilities of redemption remain the most profound puzzles we face. Explored with honesty and feeling, they should speak to even the most irreverent among us.