Jesus and Mandy
nytheatre.com review by Amy Rhodes
August 15, 2004
In Jesus and Mandy, a campy comedy chock full of dance numbers, writers Eric Bernat and Robin Carrigan imagine an afterlife where Jesus is a miserable slacker. The result is a thought-provoking and touching escapade filled with lots of laughs.
Jesus and Mandy is set in the 1970s. Mandy (played by Carrigan) is a perpetually sick orphaned pre-teen with an overactive imagination. She has created a life for herself by imagining a doll, a stuffed animal, and her I.V. into her three best friends. When she dies (for the third time in her life, although this one actually sticks), Jesus (Bernat) comes to take her to the afterlife. But when Mandy meets the disheartened Jesus she makes it her mission to cheer him up before traveling to The Great Unknown.
As writers, Bernat and Carrigan create a clever story while exploring the notion that life, and the afterlife, are only as good as what you make of them. The play becomes a celebration of the trials and tribulations the world has to offer, even forwarding the idea that people should embrace their fear and anger instead of running from them.
As actors, the two milk their roles for all they are worth. Carrigan plays Mandy with an adorable spunk. Bernat is excellent in the role of Jesus, playing a hippie deadbeat who subtly allows his sadness to emerge.
Heather Culton, Eric Hoisington, and Michele O. Medlin nicely round out the cast as Mandy’s imaginary playmates. Director Chuck Blasius gives each actor more than one moment to shine, and punches up the show with sight gags aplenty.
Duane Domutz’s set and Baby Maria’s costumes are colorful eye-candy. CP Roth’s sound design is the catalyst for several hilarious (and impeccably choreographed) dance routines that end with the cast in a pile on the floor, out of breath and laughing. Even the final curtain call is a ruckus number.
The cast’s enthusiasm is infectious. You will find yourself tapping your feet long after you have left the theater. And, just as importantly, Jesus and Mandy will leave you looking for ways to rejoice in all the imperfections life brings.