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Theater review: ‘Incorruptible’ takes witty look at faith

Interplayers Theatre tackles questions of faith in its amusing production of Michael Hollinger’s satirical play “Incorruptible.”

A French monastery is the backdrop in this dark comedy set in the Dark Ages. In this story, men of God become sinners, dead pig farmers become saints and sinners display grace. Hollinger’s script is sometimes irreverent and sometimes sweet.

The monastery’s patron saint, Saint Foy, is a pile of bones that peasants may pay a penny to pray to. But the bones haven’t worked a miracle in 12 years, and the monks are in a sorry state, unable to help their parishioners. So they hatch a plan to sell bodies from their graveyard, claiming they are miracle-producing saints.

They also hope to entice the pope to visit. Their plan works, for the most part, but the pope will not come unless they have an incorruptible, a dead saint whose body has not decayed, the ultimate relic.

Although Hollinger spends too much time setting up the play’s premise, the dialogue features plenty of wit. “If the truth were always apparent, we’d be out of business,” quips Brother Martin. Some of the dialogue sounds decidedly modern, though, breaking the illusion for the audience.

And several of Hollinger’s plot points feel contrived and illogical, but then so is selling 12 heads of John the Baptist.

Director Patrick Treadway keeps his actors from taking their characters over the top. Each plays his or her part sincerely, letting the humor bubble to the top.

Jeffrey Sanders is lovably dopey as Brother Olf, while James Pendleton is endearing as Felix. Jeff Bryan plays the uptight Brother Martin well, although he could be more forceful at times.

There are moments when Treadway could’ve taken advantage of opportunities for more physical interactions. When the monks blackmail a duplicitous one-eyed minstrel into doing their dirty work, for example, he claims to fear for his life, but none of the monks are particularly threatening.

As the minstrel and opportunist Jack, Christopher Rounsville is understated, throwing jokes off like they’re weightless. He’s almost too flip. His honesty about his lack of religious belief makes him a good counterpoint to the monks.

There is a buildup to the arrival of Agatha, abbess of Bernay, played by Jone Campbell Bryan. She is the sister of Abbot Charles and head of a rival abbey in another village. When she finally appears, the prickly nun infuses new energy into the action.

The set design by John Hofland is simple and elegant with its faux stonework and archways.

In the end, the schemes and comedy give way to a redemptive moment. Whose faith is the strongest? The devout monk’s, the prostrate peasant’s, or the sinner who simply believes and is made whole? The change they undergo is the real miracle.