Marriage of Saints

Rated 5.0 This one-woman show featuring local actress Shelandra Goss is quiet and low-key—nowhere near as flashy as Matt Miller’s frantic solo performance in Fully Committed, recently at the Sacramento Theatre Company.

But high decibels and constant motion aren’t the only way to hit the bull’s eye. And, in its own understated way, this very charming little play about a devoutly Christian African-American woman and her unexpected romance with a motorcycle-riding Native American dude with a dubious past is a jewel of equal measure.

No one is more surprised by this romance than Sao (as in São Paulo), whose apparent manifestations of spiritual healing power as a child have led her to serve as a kind of lay pastor at the tiny Flaming Pentecostal Christian Church on the Rock, in rural Kentucky.

Sao’s not a fiery zealot; she’s rock-solid in her faith, but it’s always expressed in a very gentle way. She’s a bit flustered at other people’s certainty that she’s some kind of “saint.” She also remarks on the denominational divisions in her family—always politely, but with a dry, reserved wit.

Goss not only plays Sao, but also portrays Sao impersonating her boyfriend (named Bo Notices) as well as several male and female church members, scandalized when they see their “saint” on Bo’s Harley. Goss switches characters and genders effortlessly, in the bat of an eye.

The script is by Native American writer Dawn Karima Pettigrew, who outlines the tension between Sao’s deep devotion and her physical attraction to Bo with tenderness, honesty and realistic humor; she’s never dismissive.

Director Ray Tatar develops a better-sustained, smoother pace than we’ve seen of late at the California Stage. And Tatar continues to do a great service by presenting new and unfamiliar plays that explore the less-traveled byways of America.

Marriage of Saints is only 50 minutes long, and it’s not the sort of show that blows you away with extravagance or pizazz. But the script is a lovely find, and Goss gives a luminous performance with perfect pitch. —Jeff Hudson

Marriage of Saints plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday, $12. California Stage, 1725 25th Street, 451-5822. Through February 9.