For the Love of Christ!
nytheatre.com review by Montserrat Mendez
August 19, 2009
In the "It's so bad, it's good" category of what I am starting to believe may be the best FringeNYC Festival in years, is a musical that's so bad it borders on fabulous. Watching For the Love of Christ! by Ben Knox, was like watching Mariah Carey's "Glitter." Honey you knew it was a car wreck but oh my good lord in heaven car wrecks have never been this raucous.
Let me see if I can wrap your curls around this plot. It's 1979. In a San Franciscan Bathhouse, aging abs-less singing queen Pauly and his insultingly stereotypical Latin rent-boy Dante are having a little money problem. Meanwhile on the other side of the town, Charlie has yearnings but is married to Angela and has two children, Mary and Mikey. They follow the leadership of their Father Reverend (who goes by the name of Father Reverend). It's not too long before Charlie ends up in the Bathhouse where he falls for a Canadian Airlines Steward named Jesus (pronounced in the French—or Canadian—manner!). Through a series of unfortunate events, which I will not give away because it constitutes most of the sheer thin plot of the musical, Charlie ends up dying for his sins, and Jesus, who is none other than Patient Zero, is so distraught over his death that he curses mankind with P.I.V., the precursor to H.I.V. I guess it's like an alternative reality musical in which Patient Zero is not someone who slept with hundreds of men therefore spreading plague across the United States but a misunderstood god-like figure who did it all for love. Yes! It's insulting, its cliche, but it does have stuffed monkeys falling from the sky.
It's also for those who like their humor dark with an extra helping of twisted kind of extraordinary! The jokes zip by at a hundred miles an hour, thanks in part to director's Holly-Anne Ruggiero's terrific sense of timing. She must have suspected that there was not much of a plot so she kept the musical moving so fast I think I got whiplash!
The performances range from absolutely fantastic to abysmally dreadful but still fun. An absolute knockout is Kristi Cates, who plays Angela the abandoned wife with relish and energy to spare. She's at her best with the children, played with zest and charm by Eryn Murman and Jamaal Wilson. Steven Strafford as Pauly is totally game, and as his character states in the script, "the only thing I have ever stolen is a show!"—and he very nearly does.
The music is for the most part largely forgettable stuff, except for the number "Daddy's Left Us," which is absolutely hysterical.
I can't hum a single song, nor remember a single joke, and I will probably forget much of it by the end of the most Fabulous FringeNYC ever, but For the Love of Christ! I will remember what a good time I had.