A Fringe Festival without at least three Biblical satires? Blasphemy!
But the little devils have come through again this year, thank heaven, so there’s no shortage of sacrilege on display. In a crowded field, Kleesattel Productions’ To and Fro and Up and Down — the show’s title comes from an actual Bible passage describing Satan as a kind of Rick Steves to the damned — stands out as a thinking person’s travesty. More graduate-level seminar than South Park episode, it hovers at the quieter, more thoughtful end of the religious-lampoon spectrum. Although Adam does show up wearing tightie-whities with a strategically placed leaf appliqué. And did you know that the decadent pleasures of Eden included cheetah cake, panda boxing (cuter than a cockfight but just as action-packed!), and a swimming pool filled with pudding?
The revelations in Benjamin Kleesattel’s smart but occasionally indulgent script aren’t all for laughs. As our seminar leader (aka The Prince of Darkness), Dain Alan Paige expresses true, deeply felt regret over his falling-out with God, and tips us off to some scriptural details our Sunday school teachers might have overlooked.
This calm, contemplative Satan in a tweed jacket also challenges his guests (particularly Job and Jesus Christ) with some legitimate questions: How many innocent lives were taken under Yahweh’s banner? At what point does devotion become madness? Does God even care?
The are, of course, thousands of pages of source material left unexplored, and yet at 50 minutes, To and Fro feels long. Director Gina Kleesattel might tighten the pacing and commit more fully to the “Bible studies with the Devil” concept. We should have classroom rather than theatrical lighting, for instance. And handouts. But no PowerPoint presentation. Even the enemy of righteousness has his limits.