by Willard Manus
First produced by Actors Gang in 1987, the company's revival of CARNAGE, a lampoon of American televangelism and zealotry is still unfortunately as relevant as ever, thanks to the emergence of the Christian Right under the Bush regime. Televangelism is a billion-dollar industry today, led by the Christian Broadcast Network's Pat Robertson, who blamed 9/11 on pagans, abortionists and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Written by Tim Robbins and Adam Simon, and directed by Beth F. Miles, CARNAGE pokes rude, boisterous fun at crackpots like Robertson and the millions who not only listen to him but fling buckets of money at him. The dynamic V.J. Foster plays Cotton Slocum, a fat, loud, flamboyant Texan pentecostalist minister who takes to the airwaves to preach his looney-tune version of Christianity. Believers (read donors) will be raptured up to heaven on judgement day, leaving everyone else behind to roast in hell.
Foster is backed up by a large, energetic cast of actors--many of whom not only play multiple roles but also sing, dance and wield puppets (especially Justin Zsebe). Together this talented ensemble mixes slapstick, buffoonery and commedia del arte to poke fun at Slocum and the ditzy housewives, gun-happy fundamentalists and lumpen proletariat who adore him. The corruption of true religious values is CARNAGE'S theme, though Slocum's possible redemption (after a fall from grace) offers a wisp of hope that even a televangelist can become a good Christian. Actors' Gang, 9070 Venice Blvd, Culver City. Call 310-838-4264 or visit theactorsgang.com