Pastor Sal Perez is that simple play about a young man who is addicted to drugs and thrown in jail in an attempt to save his life. Tho the play states that is about the well known Pastor, mister Sal Perez, the actual narrative is split between a scene from his own childhood and a touching scene involving another inmate named Carlos Ortega who struggles with authority.
The play opens with a confusing scene involving a voicemail left by a young woman speaking in Spanish. She speaks in a hushed manner and sounds worried, and thru a translation by Rosa, played by Marcia Gair, we learn that the woman is trying to reach the pastor because of a dream she had that involved her brother getting shot.
We learn that the pastor is not in at the moment but that he must be important to his community because of how Rosa and a janitor named John, played by Clayton Minder, speak about him. He is revered and sought after, and this is our introduction to the pastor.
From there the play shifts back in time to the pastor’s own youth, where we learn he is imprisoned and is rebellious, fighting a cop who is trying to save his life. The Pastor reflects on his childhood and specifically his parents, recalling a troubling scene in which his father slaps his mother.
From there the play focuses on the other rebellious young man, Carlos, who also fights authority but finds a moment of clarity and introspection when he writes a letter to his son apologizing for abandoning him.
The play is short and to the point: at a brisk 45 minutes, we see a young man find meaning in his struggles by being held accountable for his own actions, which lies at the heart of the pastor’s own story.
After the play, the Pastor spoke for an hour and half on his own marriage and growing up in the church. The gist was that he found god but struggled with drugs and infidelity, a problem so bad that it forced his wife to leave him. It was only after he surrendered to God and gave up control to the highest power that his wife came back to him and the pastor was finally able to get clean.
While his story is simple and heard before, it’s powerful in its profound message of redemption and hope that can only be found in faith of a higher good. Adding to the his story, the pastor sang from a selection of R&B and soul music, highlighting his own vocal ability.
A highlight of the actual play was also found in the performance by Jack Schmitt, a man in his 20s that I happened to have the chance of working alongside of at a playwriting workshop here in Cleveland 2 weeks ago. Schmitt was by far the highlight of the show, stealing the stage with his strong presence. He has the makings of a fine actor, one that is confident and loud, and tho he comes off a little proud, is capable of presenting a struggling father coming to grips with his own sins and addictions.
In the end, the play was a rousing success with its small audience here at the Cleveland State University, drawing applause and laughter from an enthusiastic audience. At the end, the Pastor invited members to the front of the stage for a prayer, and while feeling God’s grace, I was able to see a man become enraptured with the spirit as the pastor spoke. Such was the power in the moment and the real meaning behind the words spoken.
More information about the Cleveland Treatment Center can be found here: Cleveland Treatment Center