Vestments of the Gods
Well, I didn’t see that coming. To be fair, they do mention the presence of a tragedy, but even so. I just didn’t see it coming. While anyone with half a pulse can ascertain the message they are trying to convey, Vestments of The Gods seems to be geared towards a generation driven by technology, impulse and the immense pressure to fit in. A generation that needs to know, and is in the process of learning, how truly tragic a consequence can be.
It’s Halloween at Thebes Street Elementary School and students and faculty are dressed for the occasion. The morning is going smoothly until Hayden (Sean Bennett Geoghan) makes an unintended grand entrance as “Fabulous Jesus”. Met instantly with harsh criticism and jeers from his classmates, his best friend Annie (Erica Diaz) feels an overwhelming pull to intervene by means of diversion. Appearing to have no costume at all, she reveals to her class that she too has taken the religious route. She has dressed up as Muhammad, and she dares anyone to prove otherwise. Sparking the holy grail of school scandals, Annie finds herself straddling the line between complying with authority and standing up for what she knows is right.
The show begins on a seemingly mollified note: a smorgasbord of young coeds welcome the audience to their world with a song both vitalizing and haunting. But it doesn’t take long to realize that Vestments of The Gods is a roller-coaster experience of the mind, heart and chronological perception. One minute I am craving Hocus Pocus and a snickers bar, the next my jaw is literally touching the floor. While some twists and turns might be rash in execution, the shock factor is always effective. And I am pretty sure that’s what this story is really meant to do. To teach the shocking truths of today’s world to anyone who will listen, especially our youth.
From the second the show began, I had a feeling the creators envisioned a younger audience filling the seats. While I found the dramatic, immature behavior of the students to be engaging and authentic, I could see children of that age finding it hysterical. And then the joking behavior turns into cruelty and thus begins the lesson. “How is ‘Fabulous Jesus’ comparable to ‘Jesus Christ’?” “To what extent is a bystander responsible for harm done?” “How do you choose which battles to pick?” “At what point should authority be overruled?”. While such topics may be a little heavy for my taste, I can’t argue the fact that they are worth addressing and were addressed with substance, tact and conviction. And that is a testament to the cast and crew.
Vestments of The Gods may not be a spirit-lifter, but it is certainly an eye-opener. While hardly a “family show” in the typical sense of the word, it is certainly a show families should see to become better educated on the severity of bullying at any age.
Vestments of The Gods-Book and Lyrics by Owen Panettieri; Music by David Carl; Directed by Joey Brenneman.
WITH: Erica Diaz (Annie), Scott Schafer (Principal Creon), Jennifer Lauren Brown (Ms. Mene), Jennifer Cody (Vera Harper), Perri Yaniv (Terry), Sam Perwin (Mr. Neeces), Sean Bennett Geoghan (Hayden), Molly McKenna Dillon (Lily Harper), Max King (Scott), Andreas Wyder (Nicholas), Elyssa Renee Ramirez (Margot), Bryson Bruce (Cole), Michael Hull (Evan), Lauren Alice Smith (Caitlin), Megan Mekjian (Jessica), Allison Winn (Kira).
Lighting Design, Sam Gordon; Costume Design, Erin Michelle Routh; Set Design, Elisabeth Svenningsen; Producer, Lin-Manuel Miranda; At Theatre 80, 80 St. Marks Place, Remaining Performances-8/17 at 10:15 pm, 8/22 at 7:45 pm, 8/24 at 1:00 pm, http://www.fringenyc.org/basic_page.php?ltr=V#Vestme, Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes with no intermission.