BY ALEX GRUBER
“Evergreen delivers a sinfully funny show about the bare bones of faith.”
Evergreen Theatre Company gave righteous performances “Incorruptible” by Michael Hollinger May 1-3 and May 7-9 at the Webb Theater at St. Norbert College.
A self-described “dark comedy about the Dark Ages,” “Incorruptible” tells the tale of a monastery in Priseaux, France, around 1250 CE. The monastery has the relics of a certain Saint Foy (pronounced “Fwa” and meaning “Faith” in French), but the holy bones have not worked a miracle in 13 years, leaving the house without revenue from pilgrims for themselves or the poor of Priseaux. (Fun fact: The actual Sainte Foy Abbey in Conques, France, is a Norbertine community.)
The monks at Priseaux expect a coming visit from the pope to bring pilgrims (and money!) back to their monastery, but their hopes are dashed when the convent in Bernay claims to have the bones of St. Foy, too, and the pope stops there instead. Charles, the abbot, learns that a one-eyed “monk” sold the supposed bones to Bernay, and they set out to find him and restore their community to its former glory.
The “monk” turns out to be a minstrel named Jack, and the men of St. Foy arrange for him to perform at their monastery and then get him to confess to his crime. After finding out that Jack simply dug up a random skeleton and sold it to Bernay for 30 gold coins, the monks decide to take a practical approach to filling the abbey’s coffers: selling the remains of their parishioners to churches and abbeys across Europe as saints’ relics for a large “prophet” (pardon the pun).
That’s just the beginning of many hijinks combining the sacred with the sacrilegious, resulting in a play that not only leaves its audience in stitches at various points but also makes it pause and consider what really constitutes faith and goodness. Hollinger has written an excellent story. Its first act may drag a bit, but its characters are endearing and its message touching.
Teresa Aportela Sergott directed Evergreen’s rendition of “Incorruptible.”
In her director’s note, she stated that the play is meant “to poke fun at faith, not out of spite but more like at a family reunion.”
This intent came across clearly in the show, with a zaniness and teasing of traditional authorities akin to that of “Monty Python” but a tenderness toward characters and their journeys in faith, as well.
Alex Sabin gave an outstanding performance as Jack, consistently displaying the customary humor of a minstrel and the developing character of a man who lost an eye—and his faith—at an early age.
Michael Troyer gave a skilled portrayal of Charles, showing the very human side of people often considered to be unimaginably holy. Together with Sabin, Troyer contributed to a dynamic leading duo for “Incorruptible.”
As must be expected in this world, “Incorruptible” was not without its sins. As stated previously, the first act moves quite slowly, while the second act is chock-full of action, creating a contrast that was both disconcerting and pleasing. Occasional flubs with lines or long pauses between lines in the first act contributed to its dragging pace. These were only venial sins, however, leaving the soul of the show quite pure.
Overall, Evergreen Theatre’s production of “Incorruptible” joyfully romped through the matters of the flesh and of the spirit. For those who can appreciate a jibe in the ribs to their faith and a message of hope in redemption and love, “Incorruptible” will truly gladden the soul.