Zachary Willis, Naiquai Macabroad, & Liz Mikell in I Am Delivered’T. Photo: Denisha McCauley / Actors Theatre of Louisville

I Am Delivered’T

Written by Jonathan Norton
Directed by Robert Barry Fleming
Produced in association with Dallas Theatre Center

A review by Regina Harris

Entire contents are copyright @2024 by Regina Harris. All rights reserved. 

It isn’t easy being a soldier in the Army of the Lord, especially if your calling is to serve as an usher – a select group of church folk who consider it their honor to serve their fellow believers with decorum, grace, and authority. Additionally, an usher must possess the physical strength and mental facility to provide first aid to any churchgoer so imbued with the Holy Spirit that they risk hurting themselves or others in a fit of divine ecstasy. Sis and Pickles, two queer members of the New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church Usher Board No. 1 are manning the parking lot during the traditional Seven Last Words Service on a hot Good Friday afternoon when Sister Breedlove becomes so intoxicated with the Holy Spirit that she is at risk of passing out. 

Jonathan Norton’s spirited new play, I Am Deliverd’T opened to a ridiculously small but thoroughly engaged crowd on Friday night at Actors Theatre of Louisville. It explores the nature of community and connection through the lens of queerness in an environment that is not always as inclusive or safe as might be expected. There’s family; then there’s “church family” and the two are synonymous for these characters. Family is complicated under any circumstance, but harder for those whose core is unacceptable to their community, forcing them to live the “don’t ask, don’t tell” lie just to marginally participate. Each of the four characters in this play has suffered some form of trauma at the hands of the church family they hold so close, but the ties that bind run very deep, and you never give up on family. 

The witty, self-deprecating church humor and tight dialog provide a joyful jaunt into a faith-filled church during an exuberant Easter weekend service. Each character’s journey of reflection and reconciliation makes the hour-and-a-half-long play feel like mere minutes. Each of the actors, Liz Mikel, Zachary Willis, E. Faye Butler, and Naiquai Macabroad, brought tremendous vivacity and elegance to their characters Friday night, creating the feeling that we, the audience, were right there in the presence of the Spirit with them. There is so much love and ebullience embedded in this thoughtful piece (despite the serious topic) that at some moments, audience members felt moved to shout out a heartfelt “Amen!” 

The perfection of this cast, individually and collectively, cannot be overstated. Liz Mikel as sharp-tonged Sis (an elder usher mentor) delivers head-spinning lightning-fast dress-downs with ferocity; but also dispenses honest crone wisdom as needed. She’s perfect as the elder whose bad side you never want to be on, but if you needed a shoulder to cry on, hers would be the one you want. Zachary Willis delights as her young protégé Pickles, equal parts show choir graduate and beleaguered former choir boy. He seems to effortlessly combine verbal comedy with a physical charge that is electric. E. Faye Butler as overwrought Sister Breedlove confounds as a person struggling to maintain a perfect façade to hide a troubled soul, but she is tired. Her roller-coaster emotions are exhausting, but ultimately cathartic. Ms. Butler must be inexhaustible to carry that off so well. Then there is Naiquai Macabroad who literally sparkles as Effie, the light at the end of the darkness. 

The simple set reflects every church on every neighborhood corner of every town, down to the mesh-covered doors and colorful stained glass windows pulsating brightly with the joyful noise of an unseen crowd inside. I highly suggest you conduct yourselves accordingly and get yourself to church as soon as possible. This concludes my announcements for this week. Can I get an amen?

Featuring Liz Mikel, Zachary Willis, E. Faye Butler, & Naiquai Macabroad. 

I Am Delivered’T

March 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, 23 @ 7:00 pm
March 17, 21, 23, 24 @ 2:00 pm

Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 324-5918

Regina Harris has lived in Louisville for nearly three decades and has worked for many of its theatre companies and venues in various capacities. She holds a degree in Humanities from UL and currently works as a Youth Development Specialist at United Crescent Hill Ministries. To express her love for great food as well as Louisville history and architecture, she is a guide with Louisville Food Tours.