If laughter is the best medicine and religion dope for the masses, then a funny story set in a monastery should elicit lots of dopey laughter.
Whidbey Playhouse Community Theatre proves that theory true with its latest show, “Incorruptible” on stage June 7-23.
The play, produced by Sue Riney, is small in cast but large in lunacy.
A dark comedy set in the Dark Ages, “Incorruptible” pokes fun at the Catholic church, piles up bags of bones and shows how circumstances can tweak the convictions of even the most faithful.
An eight-person cast successfully depicts the delightful story set in the Chapter House of the Monastery of Priseaux, France in 1250 A.D.
Written by Michael Hollinger, the tale may or may not be entirely true, which is noted in the program, “This sort of thing really happened.”
Bones of saints and martyrs really did lay in the altar of many churches and peasants did pay a penny to pray for a miracle. During the Middle Ages, churches in France were running out of money and clergy were becoming as poor as the people they were supposed to be serving.
Robbing their own graveyards to find “any old bones” and selling them off as supposed holy bones — St. Andrew’s fingers, St. James’s feet and 12 or 17 heads of St. John the Baptist (they lost count)— makes for a hilarious yarn, facts be darned.
When they run out of human remains, the tail of Saint Bernard will do.
Chris Kehoe, Navy sonar technician by day, brilliantly portrays Jack, the one-eyed scoundrel who is caught as a thief by the brothers and leads them to the fake relic enterprise. This the fourth time he’s appeared in a Playhouse production and he also performs for ACT in Anacortes.
“This play is a unique style of acting,” said Kehoe, who’s been at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island since 2016. “It is all physical comedy. Slapstick requires playing off each others’ lines.”
Dave Frazer, who co-directs with Andrew Huggins, described the production as simple in terms of costumes and sets and music (none) but difficult in dialogue.
“Comedy is all about timing,” he said. “That’s the toughest part. It’s such a rapid dialogue, bang, bang, bang, and hard to get it down.”
As head of the monastery, long-time actor Kevin Wm. Meyer leads the band of brothers, playing Charles, the abbot. With a pensive face and bald pate, Meyer not only looks the part but plays the conflicted abbot superbly.
As Brother Martin, David Jackson takes charge of the rather dubious money-making scam with great enthusiasm and terrific comic timing.
Only his second performance with Whidbey Playhouse, it’s evident he’s acted elsewhere in many other community shows.
Eric George needs to be oafish as rather dim-witted Brother Olf and he aptly pulls it off.
At age 19, Warren Rogers is the youngest of the cast playing the idealistic Brother Felix who is shocked by the behavior of his fellow brothers in the name of sustaining the “go deed business.” Rogers, who came up through the ranks of the Would Be Players, skillfully displays the naive brother’s swirl of emotions.
Two women in the production also shine. Jacqueline Davis appears briefly but powerfully as Agatha.
She’s a knock-out as a nun who’s both a religious Sister and rancorous sister to Abbot Charles.
“It is so much fun playing this part,” Davis said, following Thursday’s family and media performance. “My direction was ‘Let me take me wherever I wanted.’”
That place is riotously funny, no bones about it.
Diana Collette plays Marie, who alternates between being the lively sweetheart and spar to Jack and playing a dead saint. “Controlling your breathing is the hardest part when you’re supposed to be dead,” she said.
Collette got involved with Whidbey Playhouse at the insistence of her little girl, Ellie, who’s gleefully appeared in several children’s productions. The Navy family is moving to Jacksonville, Fla. after the play closes June 23; Collette said she’s grateful to be on Oak Harbor’s stage one last time.
“Incorruptible” has been described as a ‘cynical little comedy about how the Catholic Church manufactured miracles to keep its peasants in the dark during the Dark Ages.’
Or it’s just an outrageous commentary on faith.
“The town is flooded, businesses have burned down and the monastery is broke,” director Frazer said, summing up the play’s moral dilemma. “Faith is easy to have until everything goes wrong.”
• Whidbey Playhouse Community Theatre presents “Incorruptible” June 7-23, 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $18 at box office, 730 SE Midway Blvd., Oak Harbor or www.whidbeyplayhouse.com