Thursday, October 25, 2007

Julia Sweeney and Spamalot

Last Saturday evening I saw Julia Sweeney perform her latest monologue entitled Letting Go of God. It took place at a new performing arts center in Bothell, which is actually housed in the local high school. I would have liked to have seen every seat filled, but that wasn’t the case. I didn’t see much publicity ahead of time, but I happened to see a listing for it on juliasweeney.com. I had bought the CD version of the performance earlier in the summer and thought it was brilliant. It’s very funny, but also very poignant at times. Having grown up attending church regularly as a United Methodist protestant, and even considered the clergy at one point, I could relate to Julia Sweeney’s journey out of faith. I have also read through Buddhist texts and studied Native American beliefs on the look out for a belief that felt more comfortable with my own world view. The radio show This American Life did a feature piece on Julia and Letting Go of God and it was one of their most popular shows, generating enormous amounts of e-mail. I had the good fortune of seeing Julia Sweeney speak just last weekend at the Freedom From Religion Foundation convention, which took place in Madison, Wisconsin. If you are not able to catch a live performance of Letting Go of God, the good news is that a film version is now in post production. It’s a wonderful celebration of the mind and what it feels like to be a human in this vast universe.

On Sunday evening Jen and I attended a performance of the road production of Spamalot. I had read all the publicity about this show while it ran on Broadway. It’s based, for the most part, on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but the writers did a great job of inserting other elements from Python’s repertoire. They even include the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from the film The Life of Brian. I grew up watching Monty Python on my local PBS station and my high school was filled with kids like me, who were constantly quoting lines from the Holy Grail. I remember taking my dad to see it and the fact that he didn't laugh once during the entire film. While the audience was laughing uproariously during the killer rabbit scene he leaned toward me and whispered, This is stupid! I suppose that he was right, but does that lessen the humor? Certainly not for a fourteen-year-old. My dad didn't get the British humor of Monty Python's Flying Circus, but he would guffaw loudly while watching Benny Hill late at night. It was fun to be sitting in the Paramount theatre amidst throngs of other Python fanatics. Spamalot gave a fresh face to our nostalgia for the carefree days of youth. (Which, if any of us take a moment to ponder, we quickly realize was anything but carefree.) For any fan of the Holy Grail this musical adaptation provides over two hours of fun and laughter.

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