The Book of Mormon, South Park Style

spoiler_alert_300_w2Spoiler alert!! Please do not read if you are planning on seeing this play!!

On Sunday March 17, we were fortunate enough to obtain standing room only tickets for the popular Broadway hit, “The Book Of Mormon” written by, among others, Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park fame.

I personally have been waiting two years to see this play but I could not justify the ridiculously high prices (hundreds of dollars per ticket), even for the LA show. However winning these standing The_Book_of_Mormon_posterroom only tickets set me back only $27.50 and I even was able to watch it my preferred posture of standing.

I am not a big fan of musical theater, though I am a big fan of comedy. I am not a big fan of Mormonism, though I am a big fan of society and culture.  I am not a big fan of snobbish critic reviews, though I do like to observe and pontificate; thus I bring to you my review from a non-critic though lover of comedy, culture and pontification.

In short, it seems on the surface the play rips a new asshole into the body of the Mormon Church. The factual data of the origins of the Mormon church as humorous stand alone, needing no convincing; and it’s worth a good chuckle without any Broadway theatrics. Sure, it might be more entertaining to hear of magical spectacles, mysterious golden plates and the Garden of Eden located in Missouri through a sarcastic Broadway song, yet the content alone is ridiculous enough to LMFAO.

As with most of Stone’s and Parker’s seemingly sophomoric material, wait long enough and there is indeed a deeper point to be made (remember these are the same guys who make a 22 minute animated comedy about guys claiming the world’s largest shit into a social commentary on the hypocrisy of Bono…brilliant -bathroom humor with a purpose.).

As two young Mormon missionary “elders” set out to convert an African tribe to the Latter Day religion, one of them, Arnold, happens to be a fantastic liar and, without any of the other Mormon elders knowing, lies to the downtrodden tribe about the religion in order to make it sound more appealing and feasible to them in their context.

Of course the young man is reprimanded and sent off to gentile pastures when his lies are found out by LDS authorities, yet the aids-ravaged villagers have found a new sense of purpose and optimism is this new crazy faith; thus when it comes time to go back and confess his lies, it is realized that this new sense of purpose is worth believing and it has provided inspiration and hope. Indeed they have found the “Book of Arnold.”

Of course, the point is that you can say all the negative things you wish about the Mormon church yet the bottom line is that even amidst the inane claims, people are finding purpose, value and direction – which, according to the didactic claims of the writers, can overshadow the shortcomings of reason and logic.

The play was Broadway quality with everything great you expect in a Broadway production. The Mormon elder dance was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. However, perhaps my ultimate disappointment overall was in my unrealistic high expectations as well as the unoriginality of Stone’s and Parker’s Mormon material –which, perhaps the result of the creative benefit of animation, was better and more aptly communicated in previous South Park episodes.

If you watch enough Tarantino or Tim Burton movies you are going to get some retreads. Rather than the violent witty dialogue coming from contemporary gangsters it comes from cowboys. Or rather than the same eccentric characteristics of a man with Scissorhands, it comes from a creepy chocolate bar maker; kinda the same guys in different times and places.

I have heard and seen Stone’s and Parker’s modus operandi and was hoping for something a bit more original, even if the lack of originality was due to a retread of their own body of very original work; highly stylized artists can be a victim of their own originality and success

And since any religion is ultimately judged by the benefits afforded to its NON adherents, the message is not all that original. If Stone and Parker truly believe the ends (happiness, fulfillment, purpose) justifies the means (a bunch of bullshit), why write a 2 hour play ripping the religion in the first place?

It would seem to me that writing a creative “tell all” about the insanity of a religious system could be just about that, alone, as a humorous and creative expose’. On the other hand, if the point is to convey that no matter what we believe it is all good if it leads to a happy existence, then why write the musical in the first place? The world is full of all kinds of crazy beliefs systems that help people get through another crazy day and stay sane.

Are you poking fun at it or justifying it? Yet, by combining both, it seems Stone and Parker are the ones laughing hardest all the way to the bank. I personally think they should tithe 10% of it back to the Mormon church. Not.

Thus, in tension, I over think. Sometimes a laugh is just a laugh. And it has plenty.






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