Children take the lead in Table 8’s sublime ‘Scientology Pageant’

A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant plays at the Art Square Theatre through December 20.
Molly O'Donnell

Four and a half stars

A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant Through December 20; Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; Art Square Theatre,

There’s something perversely funny about innocent-looking children saying adult things. This is the timeless logic effectively brought to Table 8’s production of A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant. We’re all familiar with the events of the epiphany and annual accompaniment in the form of tiny wise men whose unconvincing stares are only underscored by their slipping beards. This pageant offers a hilarious alternative for those of us without kids onstage: a satiric musical that recounts the life and teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology. But the best part is that instead of amateurs who forget their lines, this production offers deft performances by astoundingly professional local child actors.

Beginning, as most pageants do, with a beautiful little blonde angel singing a sweet song, Scientology quickly gets weird, with kids fighting to play the part of Hubbard, from his youthful search for the meaning of life to his formation of a religion that encourages belief in both humanity’s extra-terrestrial origins and the bogus psychology that comes in tow. Yet, as satirical and biting as the play is, the children’s beautiful singing, dancing and sincere faces keep the mood from sliding over the edge into bitterness. Always on the funny side of making fun, these kids send the audience into peals of laughter when the smallest of them, Will Haley, shouts, “Scientology changed my life!” or when Ashlee Grubbs affects the most amazing New York accent I’ve ever heard from within the confines of an oversized blazer. The lion’s share of the praise must go to both of the principles—Gary Easton, who plays the many moods of Hubbard without once cracking an inappropriate smile, and his angel Joelie Mountain, who shares the stage with him and flawlessly narrates throughout the play.

Creative director Troy Heard has his work cut out for him with the next two productions in his Lead Us Not series, focused on the darker side of religious history. Thankfully for him, the tough act to follow is his own.

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