Incorruptible – To Barter a Martyr
A REVIEW BY THE BAD ORACLE
It might come as a bit of a surprise (or maybe not), but I was actually raised Catholic. Even as a kid I would kneel until my knees were sore waiting for Father O’You-Only-Come-On-Christmas-You-Bastards to finish his thousandth millionth incantation and I would inwardly rebel against the seriousness of it all. I would look like I was praying but I was really wondering if the priests and nuns had. You know. Butts under there. (Of course, this naturally segues into a conversation about how, if some of those motherfucking priests would have kept a touch more track of what was going on with their butts and other bits the Church might not be circling the toilet in terms of moral credibility – but that’s for another day.) It is precisely because of this high sacred silliness that the Church makes such a great target for satire and comedy. Michael Hollinger’s Incorruptible tries to play on exactly that theme. Father Charles (Richard Peck) and Father Martin (Roy Hammond) are in a pickle. Their monastery is in such dire straits that they are reduced to shaking down the peasants for pennies just to be able to pray to the village icon, the holy bones of St. Foy. When news reaches the brothers that another religious outfit is claiming ownership of the very same bones, purchased from a one-eyed monk and effectively putting them out of the St. Foy business, they go looking for justice of the earthly kind. Turns out it’s traveling minstrel, Jack (Phil Gallagher) and his would-be fiancee Marie (Ilana Hirschorn), who have peddled the fake bones to turn a buck. Pretty soon Charles and Martin calm down and wise up to the fact that they have literally thousands of dollars of profit buried in the churchyard. So they start digging up former parishioners (much to the distaste of the novices, Brother Olf (Torberg M. Tonnessen) and Brother Felix (Sean Dynan)) and selling them as holy relics. Things go a little wonky and, when faced with a visit from the Pontiff himself, they nervously blurt out that they have an incorruptible (a corpse of a saint that miraculously never decomposes). These don’t grow on trees, you know, and the last act, like many of my Saturday nights, is a madcap rush to find a good-looking body. Let’s just say this: I really wanted this show to work. I was on it’s side. But I’ve seen a couple of really successful comedies lately and, by comparison, this one didn’t seem to take flight. I’ve also seen a fair amount of director Sherrionne Brown’s work and, usually, I really like it. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a light enough touch here to overcome the crazy amount of heavy exposition in the first half of the play and it takes wayyyyyy too long to get going. The whole thing just feels a little glum, a little slow, a little off. Part of the issue, I have to say, is with the leads. Roy Hammond seemed to be struggling with lines and to be generally off of his game. His Brother Martin, while sometimes pleasingly prissy, also often seemed weirdly forced, like he might be trying too hard for the laughs and puzzled when they weren’t really coming. Richard Peck nails the long-suffering weariness of Father Charles and is great in the quieter moments. But the true hilarity should come in the dramatic swings between “Well, what are you going to to do?” and “Holy shit, the Pope is fucking coming, STOP FUCKING BLUBBERING AND HAND ME THE KNIFE!”. Peck doesn’t quite ramp up enough to make the bipolar nature of the character as funny as it could be. It’s a little disappointing because, by and large, I honestly enjoyed much of the supporting cast. Gallagher’s tomcatting Jack is amusing, if a little one-note. The ever-handsome Sean Dynan is a gas as the not-quite-above-earthly-delights Brother Felix. Torberg M. Tonnessen is just Mr. Cuddly Charming as the slightly dim Brother Olf. And angels fucking sang whenever Ilana Hirschorn hit the stage. I lit up when she came on. Her Marie is one brassy sassy lassy and Hirschorn gleefully mops the floor with anyone in her path. For my money, her scenes were the most successful in the whole shebang. Set (design by Sherrionne Brown constructed by Fuzz Roark) was nice enough and executed well (like always). The basement nature of Spotlighters does add a certain authenticity to a gloomy church scene – but I feel like I’ve seen this kind of thing there before and it just seems a little phoned in. I have to hand it to whoever did props (not listed). If those goddamned bones weren’t a real skeleton I will eat my hat. I’ve heard of leaving your body to science but never to community theater. If that doesn’t get you in the “Friends of Audrey” donor’s circle, I don’t know what will!
BOTTOM LINE: This text is a hilariously Pythonish idea in theory. In practice, unfortunately, it takes more than a prayer to make work. Incorruptible definitely has some gorgeously comic moments of grace but a few awkward performances and a curiously heavy feel keep it, for the most part, firmly bound to the corporal. A saintly try, for sure – but not quite a Spotlit miracle. Not this time.
Running at Spotlighters until May 18th.
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