The Cardinals takes its audience to slapstick Sunday school

Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs

Staff Writer

The Cardinals is an adult version of Sunday school on drugs (in the best way possible), illustrating the complicated relationship between people and faith.

Stan’s Cafe’s newest performance is a gritty social commentary of framing ideas and looking outside of that constructed frame.

The show is directed by James Yarker who employs talented individuals from various creative backgrounds to produce an amazing theatrical spectacle.

The audience is introduced to a trio of curious cardinals performed by Gerard Bell, Graeme Rose and Craig Stephens, who prep and perform their own epic montage of the bible.

Screaming acts as a bookend for the the play. Immediately the audience is drawn in as a single evangelical cardinal screams as he peers through the puppetry performance frame.

What is astounding about this play is that the actors are able to convey powerful messages with little dialogue.

The metatheatricality of the puppet show within the play allows audience members to see behind the scenes as the cardinals explore well known bible stories and concepts.

From a side-splitting rendition of Adam and Eve, to a stick spinning rock flung at Goliath, to a disproportionately sized Jesus walking on the water, the play exposes various images which have been relevant in popular culture’s portrayal of the Christian faith.

Faith in general is up for discussion as the cardinals are directed by a Muslim stage manager performed by Rochi Rampal. Despite ruffling the cardinal’s feathers, she stays true to her own practice dropping her stage managing duties momentarily for the Tahajjud prayer.

This type of play demands over the top theatrical sound, which is exactly what Stan’s Cafe delivers. The show presents varying volumes and excellent song selection.

The reverb on Latin pieces spoken outside of the play matches the eccentric religious scores that could be found from an old Hollywood rendition of Ben Hur.

The music within the play comes from old tapes chosen by the stage manager. Often the music skips or a modern track is played for a few seconds as an intentional mistake.

For example, empire walls crumble to the sound of swing music. This springboards the religion’s performative nature.

The intentional blemishes within the puppet show juxtapose the metaphorical meanings of the props used.

The play is not your average Hollywood history lesson. Audience members can expect overly long jokes, make-shift Latin “problemo technicalus,” slow motion swashbuckling and hilarious delayed reactions.

The puppets range from painted doves carrying flowers in their mouths to angry mobs.

And what’s a cardinal without a little sparkle? The set is built before your eyes with the literal texture of sequins, ribbons, wigs, fancy head pieces and an abundance of rice.

The play hosts an apocalyptic finish and “sacred sacrificium” with the last 20 minutes dedicated to war, the culture militarization and security. The audience is gifted with a powerful framed image of one cardinal strapping bombs to his body screaming as the set breaks apart.

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