Guesses, expectations and surprises

After over six years of performing ‘Wretch Like Me’ in theaters, living rooms, churches, and classrooms, I have recognized certain patterns in my audiences. The show itself tends to come in waves, like the waters of Corona Del Mar where my third baptism took place: waves of laughter, then waves of emotions, then waves of incredulity, then more laughter, and perhaps a wave or two of years.

The responses I get from audience members after the show also show certain patterns.

From those who have experienced similar things to those I describe in the show—the weirdness of certain hyper-intense, restrictive expressions of faith and the search for meaning—’Wretch’ has been described as funny, sad, nostalgic, and deeply moving.

From those who’ve had no real experience with faith or Christianity, or were raised in a different faith tradition altogether, I have heard that the show was eye-opening and revealing. One life-long atheist who’d always said that he felt faith was unfathomable, actually told me that my show helped him at last to see why someone would join the kind of fundamentalist group my show makes gentle fun of.

And from those who count themselves as believers, the primary response I’ve gotten is surprise . . .  surprise that a show they came to expecting to be a mean-spirited and judgmental and anti-religion is actually very loving, affectionate, and heartfelt.

That was a goal from the very beginning. There are plenty of shows that attack religion, or make cruel sport of believers. ‘Wretch Like Me’ was always intended to be, above all else, a personal story, a private recollection of how faith turned my life around, and how I eventually found the strength to say no to those whose interpretations of the Bible and the words of Jesus seemed the opposite of what the kind, openhearted teacher from Galilee was always saying.

Not to get too corny about it, but ‘Wretch Like Me’—and this is what surprises people, open their eyes, and fills them with conflicted but potent nostalgia—is a show about love. It’s about the search for love, and how I learned, eventually, not to seek it from too far outside myself. And it is a show in which the people I describe are brought to the stage with a sense of the love I’ve always held for them.

Finally, a good half of the people who talk to me tell me they were surprised at how funny the show was, while the other half tell me they were surprised at how moved they were.

I hope that anyone who stumbles upon this blog and is considering seeing ‘Wretch Like Me’ but is afraid they would be offended or upset in any way, will take a chance and come see it with open eyes.

I promise it will be a very different experience than you expect it to be.

‘Wretch Like Me’ runs Saturday and Sunday, September 5 & 6,
at Lucky Penny Community Arts Center,
1758 Industrial Way., Suite 208, Napa
www.luckypennynapa.com

Then is runs

Sunday, September 13, 4:00 p.m.
Friday, September 18, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, September 20, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, September 24, 7:00 p.m.

EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy St. San Francisco
www.sffringe.org

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