There is no doubt that The Book Of Mormon is not advisable for the prudish or for the easily offended. Truth be told, it might present some challenges for those who consider themselves moderately offendable. Okay, and anyone that has ever been offended at all ever, probably. This show takes good taste and says “Fuck that shit, that’s totally overrated, let’s stir this pot and have a fuck-load of fun while we’re at it, bitches” and then it does a tap number and Jesus and Satan join in and it adds in some ideological pyrotechnics, throws a profanity Molotov Cocktail into the room, smokes a non-filtered cigarette made from contraband and generously laced with raw inappropriateness, leaves $20 on the nightstand, flips you the bird, and then never calls. And, really, you’re left going WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!…and in my case you left saying WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT!?… I LOVED IT! AGAIN! AGAIN!
It pushes the envelope and in certain cases, yes take the envelope, wipes its butt with it and sends it to your mother who is in the hospital. At times it’s just rude, juvenile and silly and at other times it corners the market on the DARKEST type of satire; examining some very bleak and frightening global issues. The reality is though, that the talent, songs and staging are brilliantly executed. If they weren’t singing about such ridiculously insensitive, volatile wickedness in such a profoundly gross manner, you wouldn’t think twice about praising the stunning performances, strong vocals, golden comic timing, orchestration and witty, layered structure. As it is though… you can’t ignore that there’s a lot of other stuff going on too. I happened to find the majority of that vastly amusing and violently admirable; smart too as it makes you think about a number of issues. The jaw was agape for a significant portion of the show to be sure, but I was crying from laughing in many parts as well. I couldn’t possibly single out anyone in this astounding ensemble with the exception of the casting direction, who abso-fucking-lutely nailed it. They’re all genuinely perfect for their roles in every way. For me this really was undeniable entertainment, achieved at an exceedingly high level.
In case you think this is just a bag on the Mormon religion you can stuff that notion up your you-know-where, right now. While certainly as the title suggest the Mormons take a direct hit when it comes to being poked fun of, the target at the center of the humor could easily be applied to ANY type of faith. The very definition of any faith (faith in a higher power, a leader, political party, humanity, familial authority, etc.) relies not on concrete facts, but on feelings and in some cases, partial truths, historical precedence and/or societal/cultural constructs. So really, it’s not so mean and malicious and targeted at one group, it equally mocks, jabs and annihilates our species’ fixation with “belief” in general. There are also wonderful homages to musical theater itself, and the show provides several call outs to successful shows, themes and devices particular to musical theater.
If you have ever seen a sample of work from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, ever experienced Team America or South Park, this doesn’t stray far from the formula, it just ups the technical ante by about a billion and a half percent. While not for the faint of heart, this really is an incredibly well-produced and tremendously well-performed show. A raunchy and immature 4 ½ out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for a contemporary piece of theater that goes where no theater piece I know has gone before, for better OR for worse. The Book for Mormon plays at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts June 30th – July 12th only.