Review: Brother Bailey's Pageant of Moral Superiority and Creation Science Island Jamboree

In a pre-Fringe interview writer-producer-director Brad Cupples said his show "embraces blasphemy" and lambastes creationism (aka "intelligent design") as non-science and "an abomination to common sense." Well, that might have been his intent, but intent

You wanna know what “sophomoric” means? You can look it up in your Webster, where you’ll read: “Conceited and over-confident of knowledge but poorly informed and immature.” Or you could just go see a Fringe Festival performance of this show. The key word here is “immature.”

Likewise you can look up “labored” and find: “Lacking ease of expression.” Or, again, you could just go see Brother Bailey. Here the key word is "lacking."

In a pre-Fringe interview writer-producer-director Brad Cupples said his show “embraces blasphemy” and lambastes creationism (aka “intelligent design”) as non-science and “an abomination to common sense.” Well, that might have been his intent, but intentions aren’t performance — in the theater or anywhere else, but especially not in the theater.

The show doesn’t quite make it to the level of blasphemy, meaning to hold religion up to ridicule. Preachers get ridiculed, yes. But that’s not the same thing.

The show argues against Christianity. It offers some scientific dispute with the notion of intelligent design. But it doesn’t insult believers or denigrate their systems of belief.

Further, the Brother Bailey character is played very strongly — even when he’s using a talking Ark puppet to make points and especially when he’s spouting self-righteous bigotry — whilst the “professor” is played as a total namby-pamby who waffles whenever he’s opposed. In this sharp contrast, Bailey’s vigorously preached, pro-creationism arguments, specious though they might be, run the risk of gathering converts.

Of course, there’s way more going on in this Jamboree than just a fight between science and religion. The six Beach Buddy Tagalongs all want to have holiday fun in the sun, but Binky and Simone have to complete a science project or they might have to go to summer school. A pregnant teen is murdered. There’s a shark attack. When things get dicey, lead lad Moonguppy suggests relieving tension with a dance contest.

Problem is that the beach-blanket movie elements and the creationism vs. science elements never quite bed down together and never quite strike sparks from each other. Plus, the plot keeps wandering off into narrative cul de sacs, like how come Brother Bailey and the science professor are both single parents?

There’s a fair amount of lame joking throughout, some of which drew gales of laughter from the opening night audience. The beach girls (two) and beach boys (four) playing the students are far too young to have giggled at Gidget movies, but they’ve mastered the squealing, bouncing performance style displayed by Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon of Beach Blanket fame. Still, the whole thing plays like a straight-to-DVD rip off of Animal House — with comedy as spurious as the scientific discourse.

Performances are in a lecture hall at the Art Academy. No printed program was made available opening night, so no specific credits (or discredits) are cited.

Performed at Art Academy of Cincinnati through June 5. See performance dates and preview here.

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