Stray Cat Theatre delivers an unusual holiday show ever so cleverly. “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” looks at the Church of Scientology and its wealthy founder, L. Ron Hubbard, as a funny and very satiric parody of the Nativity. Author Kyle Jarrow presents his comic slams and thoughtful questioning where Hubbard’s birth and his search for religious truth are compared to Christ’s.
The entire show is presented by a talented ensemble of 8- to 12-year olds as a school pageant. Huge praise goes to director Gary Minyard who crafts miracles with these young but amazingly polished troupers.
Minyard asks a lot of his cast. They must learn Jarrow’s tricky satiric puns and off-center comic barbs and deliver them with non-stop but slyly skewed humor kids this age rarely understand. The audience laughed uproariously at the performance I attended. Minyard also expects them to learn cuttingly savage songs that further question the religion, some tricky but cute choreography, clever but intricate staging, handle myriad costume changes, shift scenery, and use endless props. That the cast brings this challenge off with nary a misstep is quite an achievement.
Jarrow picks and pokes at Hubbard, his teachings, and how Hubbard’s religious thinking has turned him into a wealthy man. The script asks all the questions you have ever had about Scientology. That this young cast can deliver this tongue-in-cheek commentary with such delicious abandon is quite a credit. That this young ensemble probably doesn’t fully understand the heady satire makes this exemplary production even more amazing.
Maxx Carlisle-King is poised and always in control as L. Ron. This young actor’s theatrical spark and comic flair suggests a long and successful stage career. No less sharp is Brittney Peters’ Angelic Girl. This character functions as the show’s narrator as she guides the ensemble through its questioning and probing of this unusual religion that inspires its followers by removing their emotions and relying on their analytical ability that uses weird and twisted logic. Everyone in the cast, though, has at least one standout moment.
“A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” isn’t for those who want a traditional holiday show but if pointed but thoughtful comic probing delivered by talented troupers is your thing, this show will delight. “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” continues through December 20 at the old Tempe Performing Arts Center in downtown Tempe. For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-820-8022 or go online at www.straycattheatre.org.