I know that not all of you believe in Jesus but you all believe in chocolate, so let’s start with the bad news: DCSpeakeasy’s production is long on religion, but there’s not a drop of the sweet stuff. (Storyteller Eva Salvetti passes around some brown rice, but believe me, it is an inadequate substitute). The good news is that the storytelling is done with such wit, humility, acuity and humanity that it is like chocolate to the ears.
There is another name for religion: All We Do Not Understand. It is a broad subject, encompassing the origins of the Universe, the vastness of space, the existence of the soul, and life after death. It insists that there is a high good order behind all the chaos we experience. In the sad wake of the recent death of a beloved Washington artist, I do not know which religion is true, but I would prefer that one of them be.
So would most people, it seems. Stephanie Garibaldi, a burned-out engineering student on holiday from her life, discovered a new calling in a Mexican country village: fertility goddess. Rural folk frequently require that their gods and goddesses come with practical benefits, and Garibaldi soon found herself laying her hands upon males and females of all species.
Religion is often an instrument of authority, so it is no surprise that in the process of maturing many people turn away from religion as a way of identifying themselves. It was not so for the Argentinean Salvetti, whose hippie parents considered religion the opiate of the people, and who did not smoke opium. So she took the only path to rebellion open to her – as avatar of Catholicism, so bound to the two-thousand-year-old religion that she washed the Church walls while her parents demonstrated in behalf of the elected government. This is not a new story – a similar routine made Michael J. Fox’s career some thirty years ago – but Salvetti dishes it out with wit and charm.
Amy Saidman’s Jewishness seems less an exercise in religious belief than one in cultural identity. Like all of the despised peoples (by which I mean all peoples), Jews are made strong by the abuse they take, and Saidman’s list culminates in her being locked in jail. Imprisoned, she discovers something about her cultural roots that she’s known all along.
SpeakeasyDC saves the best until last, and so have I. Travis Wright, psychologist and clog-dancing champion, grew up in a household where the embrace of Jesus was personal, intimate and constantly available, just like the embrace of his mother. As he became a man, he discovered – quite to his dismay – that he was gay. He presumed that Jesus, just like his mother, would whup his butt if He found out, so Wright was in the closet for a long time. The story of Wright’s discovery (by logic and intuition) that Jesus is – must be – a reasonable Guy, willing to take responsibility for His creation, is the story of the discovery of wisdom.
- Running Time: 90 minutes
- Tickets: Chocolate Jesus
- Remaining Shows: Wed, July 16 at 7 . Fri, July 18 at 7:45 . Sat, July 19 at 7:30 . Sun, July 20 at 5
- Where: Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, 1725 Columbia Road NW