Thursday, February 19, 2009


Holy Mo: Moses in Denial & the Clowning of King David
by Naomi Dolgoy
Plank Magazine, February 18 2009

Lucia Frangione’s Holy Mo once again graces the stage of Pacific Theatre this month. I had the pleasure of witnessing the Holy Mo trinity of Follie (Katharine Venour), Bufoona (Erla-Faye Forsyth) and Guff (Julia Mackey) as they led audiences through the story of Moses in Holy Mo, followed by a short ‘pee break’ (as explained by Follie, and more commonly referred to as intermission), then through the story of King David in Spew Boy.

This revamping of the Holy Book for Holy Mo, transforms stoic Bible figures into comical, nicknamed, multifaceted characters. Biblical Moses becomes ‘Mo’, brother of rapping, dreadlocked Aaron, and husband of Biblical Zipporah, ‘Zip’, who begs him to get off the couch, stop watching TV, and enjoy his retirement. Kind David is ‘Davey’, who starts out as a bagel boy; and the Israelites, ‘Heebies’ are factory workers – a role that allows for audience participation. The Biblical tales are re-imagined with clowning, mime, country bluegrass music, movie montages and pop-culture references from Chariots of Fire to Sylvester Stallone to Macbeth – there is even a scene in ‘slow mo’. The stage setting evokes a circus arena, in which the audience sits on both sides of the venue, and the players engage the viewers with amazing ‘feats’ of circus performance.

The physical design of Holy Mo is elegantly layered – a sheer curtain becomes the Red Sea, the veil of God, and the blood-smeared houses in Goshen (Egypt). The costumes are simple and comical: broom bristles atop a hockey mask denote the giant Goliath, a red beret and a cigarette express the emotional character of Jonathon (King David’s brother in law). The comedy is equally layered: seemingly overt yet undeniably complex. Bathroom jokes and ‘gangsta’ Biblical figures build on the main comical conceit: clowns recanting stories of two Biblically revered characters, depicting their shortcomings as equal to their heroism.

Follie, Bufoona and Guff represent characteristics in all of us, both in their strengths and in their weaknesses. They put on a show acting out Biblical stories that they believe must be told, while analyzing the relationship between the people and their invisible-deity-that-cannot-be-seen-until-you-die, Yamma (God). Throughout the play the clowns pause to challenge and evaluate the actions of Yamma. The clowns approach Godliness with a childlike wonder and amazement, wanting to play God, fearing God, revering God. This relationship between player and creator parallels the relationship between Moses and God, and David and God, in the Bible, wherein the supplicants question their ability and purpose as leaders, and challenge God who selected them for the role.

Underneath the cleverness and good-natured humor, what these three clowns are telling is a story of sacrificing oneself for a greater purpose. Though their stories are from the Biblical era, the clowns mesmerize the audience with timeless tales of struggle, success and self-actualization. Fittingly, time and space cease to matter; Hollywood Movies, modern slang, and Biblical feats fuse together to form Holy Mo, a performance fit for a King—as reluctant as he is heroic—or a Leader as shy as he is monumental.

Cast: Katharine Venour, Erla Faye Forsyth, Julia Mackey. Director: Morris Ertman. Scenic Design: Kevin McAllister. Costume Design: Drew Facey. Lighting Design: Matt Frankish. Musical Direction/Sound Design: Luke Ertman. Stage Manager: Lois Dawson; Holy Mo runs 8pm Wednesday-Saturday, February 6-March 7, with select Saturday Matinees at 2pm, at Pacific Theatre (604.731.5518); tickets $17-$34.

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