Disclaimer: This show clearly has a target audience. I am not in that target. If you enjoy jokes about drag queens, jokes about ridiculous evangelical preachers, or jokes about JR’s Bar on 16th Street, this show might be for you. There were clearly people in the audience tonight who enjoyed it (some even gave it a standing ovation.) But …
Holy Crap! And by that I mean that Miss Teen Jesus Pageant is a lot of crap about some holy stuff. This play is a 120-minute bout of silliness that has liberated itself from the “pointless” confines of plot and structure and intentionality. To say this play is a rough draft is generous. It feels more like an idea that seemed really funny at 3:00 am and which got turned into a play later that same day. Miss Tean was high school-ish in all the worst ways. There were more missed cues than laugh lines. There were more inexplicable plot points than there were coherent moments. The playwrights (Ferinelli Sensino and Lobo Lagodi*) may had had a point to make, but they have hidden it beneath so many unintelligible twists and turns that it was impossible to discern.
The description of the play on the Fringe Web site sounded interesting. That’s why I wanted to see this show. “Two gay dads stage and rig a teen beauty pageant to get their daughter into Bible college”=”surefire hilarity” in my book any day. How can they screw this up? When we saw a scene from this show at last Monday’s Fringe Preview press conference, I started to get nervous. But I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt (it was a rough venue to perform in, and they did have a few more days to rehearse). But from the moment that the pianist started to miss notes in the overture, I knew we were in for a long night.
The play may have something to say about religion, but I don’t know what it is. It was impossible to tell where it fell on the religion-is-good vs. religion-is-the-root-or-all-evil spectrum. The play seems to make fun of it a lot, but the one redeeming character (Mary, played by Avina Turner) is church-going. I guess I’d call it “Church-sploitation”. It made fun of the Church – like it made fun of gays, immigrants, Jews: without discrimination or purpose. This was not thoughtful satire, but rather mindless drek. The plot was so weakly pieced together that at many moments I was so busy asking myself, “what the heck are they doing”, that I probably missed another two or three wayward plot points. While I got the gist of every scene (and easily predicted every turn) I had trouble discerning any of the finer points or their motivation.
The show is not without its stars. Lobo Lagodi is fairly funny as the horndog preacher, Reverend Feltwell Jr., and Peter Packin is quite amusing in his musical dance number as the drag queen Chris. By comparison to some of the other performances, these are nearly brilliant. Turner is charmingly sweet as Mary. But none of this does much to redeem a doomed production. I’d like to talk about the modern arrangements of the classic Christian hymns that they used as their musical numbers, but they were so bad that I can’t even find the words.
As I said up top, I’m sure this play would work for someone. There is a certain, fringe-y quality to it that some might find appealing. All I know is that it certainly wasn’t for me. The director said that they may go to hell for writing this play. I don’t know about that, but I sure felt like I was there while watching it.
Note – The Program lists stage names for many of the actors, and the director told me that these were the names by which they would like to be referred.
The Miss Teen Jesus Pageant
Directed by Patrick Dibattista
Produced by LaGoDi Productions and the Shark Tank Players
Reviewed by Josh Fixler (aka 20Something)
Running time: 2 hours
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?