Zenith Ensemble, one of L.A.'s newest theater companies, really put itself on the map with its production of Rise at the 2012 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Written by first-time playwright Cal Barnes and featuring two dynamic actors, Brett Colbeth and Gowrie Hayden, Risehas a raw, visceral intensity about it, an intensity that is maintained over the entire course of its 60-minute length.
Colbeth plays Henry Donner, pastor of the New Heart Church in Los Angeles, an ex-rock musician and junkie who has found God. Hayden plays Alexandra Riverton, a beautiful young woman who shows up unannounced. The smug, bible-spouting pastor pretends not to know her, but the hard-edged Alexandra soon demolishes that lie and makes him face up to the past they once shared.
Barnes keeps going deeper into character, revealing not just the passion and love they felt for each other, but the flaws, weaknesses and contradictions that eventually drove them apart.
Rise is shot through with darkness, fury and violence. Old scores cry out to be settled, but at the same time a basic attraction lingers, pulls Henry and Alexandra close. The clash between past and present, redemption and revenge, love and hate, is dramatic and thrilling from start to finish.