Hoops and the hereafter
Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends: A Final Evening With the Illuminati
In a time when the Crucifixion becomes the subject of a top-grossing film and a born-again Christian is president, messing with the Bible can be tricky. Brüka Theatre took a risk with their latest production of Larry Larson and Levi Lee’s Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends: A Final Evening With the Illuminati. And it paid off.
Mary Bennett directs the two-person cast. RN&R’s film critic, Bob Grimm, plays Reverend Eddie, the heavily medicated, paranoid schizophrenic leader of his own “church.” Wearing red thermal underwear beneath his sacred robe, he’s prone to night sweats and outbursts. His post-apocalyptic sanctuary contains a dirty bed, broken stained-glass windows and a neon cross. The Reverend hears voices he thinks belong to the Illuminati, the group formed in the 1700s that conspiracy theorists believe run the world from behind closed doors.
Reverend Eddie has one parishioner: the hump-backed, lame-footed, slow-witted and devoted Brother Lawrence (Tom Plunkett). As the Reverend preaches, Lawrence is his only faithful respondent, citing passages from the Bible and having visions of God in a silver lamé jumpsuit.
I knew this weird show would be good within minutes—when Reverend Eddie received a bedside visit from the Grim Reaper, who sat down, a basketball in one hand and an hourglass in the other, and looked the Reverend square in the eye. It’s an ironic, hilarious moment that says, yes, time is ticking away for us all, but that doesn’t mean there’s no humor in the hereafter.
Reverend Eddie prepares his sermon, titled “Life is Like a Basketball Game,” while arguing with Lawrence about religious issues, such as whether simply being in pain gets one closer to sainthood, or if it must be self-inflicted in order to count.
These discussions are interrupted by Reverend Eddie’s blackouts. This is when the show becomes shocking and side-splittingly funny. Take, for example, the tune “Jesus Was a Lutheran” sung by Grimm and Plunkett in full cowboy garb. Or the scene in which Grimm plays the nerdy applicant for the job of saint to Plunkett’s stern interviewer, who demands to know what three miracles the man has performed and in which gruesome manner he wishes to martyr himself. The scene I found funniest involves Saint Paul as a flamboyantly gay man in tight denim jeans, writing down rules for women such as “no exchanging recipes in church.” Like most of the show, this scene makes a mockery of religious edicts by portraying them as random and arbitrary.
Not only are Grimm and Plunkett extremely versatile and downright lovable, but the show involves the audience in one of the most creative ways I’ve seen. Above all, it forces you to think. I caution you, if you can’t take religious ribbing, offend easily or hate Gregorian chanting, skip it. But if you like smart theater that asks hard questions and doesn’t pretend there are answers, this one’s for you.
We live in an uncertain time in which many find comfort in the idea of an absolute truth. I think Reverend Eddie put it best in his final sermon: "Life is like a basketball game. You have a goal. You have players. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes you score. Sometimes you pull a hamstring." Brüka’s timing on this one is impeccable.