Review: Bring Your Quarters to THE 800TH ANNUAL SALVATION SWING-OFF

By: Jan. 13, 2016
Loryn Jonelis (left) as Reese and Alyssa Stowe (right) as Sukey.
Photo courtesy of Broom Street Theater.

At a traditional Catholic baptism, the child is wrapped in a white garment as a symbol of their purity in the eyes of God. As the child grows older, the garment becomes metaphorically stained by acts of sin, but the waters of baptism from infancy are said to wash those stains away. When that child grows into adulthood and eventually faces death, their garment is said to be clean once again - after a stay in purgatory, of course.

But those who live in the universe crafted by Malissa Petterson don't get the luxury of metaphorical stain removal. Their purgatory comes with a laundry basket, aptly named soaps (Tithe and Absolve), and a roll of washing machine tokens.

The departed souls in Petterson's The 800th Annual Salvation Swing-Off are sent to a purgatory that consists of laundry duty and demoted angels.

Newly dead Sukey Grand (the bold Alyssa Stowe) and Reese Mosley (a cheeky Loryn Jonelis) find themselves transported to the D-block of purgatory after they die in a car accident. Awaiting their arrival is Eden (Heather Jane Farr), the block supervisor, who explains their menial task of laundering garments.

Those stuck in purgatory do not know when their salvation (or damnation) will befall them - it could be 90 minutes or 90 years.

That monotony is only broken up once a year, by an event called The Salvation Swing-Off, when those stuck in purgatory pair off and swing dance their way to salvation. Each year at the Swing-Off, the two winners are immediately summoned to Heaven. But, another individual can sometimes stand between the contestants and their eternal salvation.

Lucy Furr.

Cleverly named Lucy Furr (Lucifer), played by the sultry and commanding Kristin Marie Stetler, attempts to sway the wayward souls to join her in the bowels of Hell. Although Hell is just filled with an infinite number of filing cabinets without any logic or order, it's still not the optimal destination for the citizens of purgatory.

Farr who plays Eden, ironically last seen in Petterson's Bite the Apple at Broom Street Theater, is delightfully varied from her last stint at BST. The polar opposite of Nameless (her character in Bite the Apple), Eden is acutely aware of everything. From the delicate balance between good and evil, to the inner workings of Heavenly gossip, Eden is the worker bee who minds her own and keeps her nose to the grindstone - a mindset developed after her demotion from keeper of Adam and Eve's garden.

At the other end of the spectrum is Dunes as Mikey. Mikey, the archangel Michael, was also demoted for going against God's will. After having one of his wings ripped from his body, Mikey falls into a cycle of womanizing and basking in his own misery - at one point even muttering "what I did means I don't get to be happy". Stoic discontent created by Dunes embraces the role with open arms and personifies the all consuming 'Catholic guilt complex.'

Petterson's show is littered with other intriguing characters like fallen archangel Gabe (a versatile Alex Brick) and the-closest-person-to-God-you-actually-meet-in-the-show, who is also the most down to Earth one of the lot, Olive (a poignant Morganna Grim).

What makes this show stick is its ability to expel laughter that later leads to profound realization. The seemingly absurd self-loathing shared by Gabe and Mikey is realized later to be an actual problem for certain followers of the Catholic faith. Amusing quips from Lucy herself remind audiences of the delicate balance between right and wrong - and why the wrong thing can sometimes feel better than the right.

Although one could believe this show to toe the line between offensive and politically correct - I don't think it toes the line at all. While an audience member of the Catholic faith (myself included) might need the ability to laugh at themselves to enjoy the show to its fullest extent, it's worth its weight in comedic papal gold.

And I suffer no Catholic guilt in saying so.

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