Curtain Critic: Downtown students play in Binary Theatre’s ‘Mad Messiah’


(Courtesy of Binary Theatre Company)

ASU students from all campuses were able to watch God in action through “Mad Messiah,” a play with students from Tempe and Downtown alike.

“Mad Messiah” fits its name. God, played by Dan Miller, wakes up hungover, engages in a prolonged musical number with a random jogger, and dips his feet in the murderous bagel business. Oh, and he’s also thinking of starting the Reckoning.

Director and playwright Cody Walker’s “Mad Messiah” is a farcical play that will have audiences roaring in laughter at the various characters’ antics. However, those who are expecting a more serious look into God’s psyche, with a straightforward storyline, might be a little disappointed.

“Mad Messiah” is built upon a fascinating foundation: The idea of heaven working as a bureaucracy, with God as the drunken CEO, is fascinating in itself. Unfortunately, the play often veers away from its core storyline to introduce viewers to zany side characters such as a bloodthirsty bagel salesman named Sal (Alexander Long). While Long’s comedic delivery elicits uproarious laughter as he competes with God in a bagel-making competition, the play’s reliance on its humorous side-scenes waters down the grit of the core story.

One of the main characters is Roxanne (Ariana Rivera), God’s new temp. Roxanne’s few moments of hilarious physical comedy were overshadowed by her propensity for screaming. Her character oscillates between ditzy and cheerful to inexplicably furious and violent with the force and speed of boomerang. It can be dizzying trying to keep track of her inexplicable mood swings, and her sharp bellowing can make the ears ring.

Rivera’s wide range of facial expressions and funny body language illuminated the different aspects of her character, but ultimately Roxanne suffered from inconsistent characterization and her constant stage presence bordered on grating.

A scene in which Lucifer (Abby Acosta) drops by in a surprise visit is like a breath of fresh air. So much of the play is dedicated to strangers mingling that this bizarre scene was tender in that intriguing character dynamics with centuries of history were able to take center stage.

One character stole both the stage and God’s cajones: Margaret, played by Monica Sampson. Her dress, with shoulder pads, sharp angles, and a stark black-and-red costume describes her personality perfectly the minute she struts onto stage. Margaret is a cold-hearted businesswoman who wants to steal God’s throne, and she’s got the theatrical evil laugh to prove it.

Overall, “Mad Messiah” is a hilarious play that balances religious imagery with outrageous humor. While the brilliant premise promises to take audience members to new heights, its flight is weighed down by overindulgence. While “Mad Messiah” might not provide the rapturous delight it promises, it does offer an interesting story, and the passionate performances will bring a smile. Who knows? It might even bring a belly laugh that’s so loud it reaches the heavens.

Contact the columnist at sosulli2@asu.edu