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When acting fails, comedy prevails

During the radiothon to save St. Bernard’s Monastery, the mayor points out that in its many years in existence, St. Bernard’s has not contributed one red cent to the public coffers, but Bernie’s Casino Royale will contribute thousands of dollars to the public school system.
Yes, at times it seems no one is on the brothers’ side as they endeavor to raise $250,000 to prevent the wine cellar from becoming a pool hall, the sanctuary a den of dancing women, and Vegas life from upstaging monastic life. It’s just the five brothers and, well, God. And, as it turns out, He can count for quite a lot.
Brotherhood is tested, and tested hard, in Hayswood Theatre’s ‘Monky Business.’
Witless Abbott Costello (Robert Morgan) is oblivious and provides plenty of misplaced leadership to inadvertently keep the monks in the dark, although his right-hand, Brother Brooks (Jeremy Weston), warns that someone isn’t acting in the spirit of the Holy Spirit.
That opens the door for devilish Brother Clarence (Jeremy Beam) to plot against the monks and their beloved St. Bernard’s. He’s only been with the order a short time, and something seems fishy about the way the lights dim and a red haze settles over the stage as he turns toward the audience with his surly grin and gothic choral background music.
All hopes for the terribly ineffective fund-raiser soon shift to five minutes of international air time, but even that seems slated for failure when three of the monks are struck with a severe case of gastrointestinal discomfort two minutes before air time.
The last monks left standing are less-than-heavenly Brother Clarence, who tainted the desserts, and the undeniably mute Brother Forte (Larry Riehle), who apparently has no sweet tooth. The only thing that can help the monks is a miracle, which doesn’t seem all that unlikely in a comedy about monks.
Like the tainted desserts, the players’ performances run smoother as they run their course, lending Act II a distinctly different feel.
Though the performances are not convincing, ‘Monky Business’ is entertaining. Written by Todd Mueller and Hank Boland with music and lyrics by Gregg Opelka, the comic worth of lyrics like ‘there’s no hair like mohair’ and ‘celibacy, hardest of vows’ is impossible to deny.
When Brother Lee Love (Darren Watson) sings that God might feel differently if He was down on Earth having to look but not touch, it’s impossible not to feel sorry for the guy.
Robert Morgan looks the part of the abbot, and juggles jumbling dialogue with ease, but he needs to shed his monastic modesty and project his voice during musical numbers.
Though the monks are decidedly not all that interesting individually, their antics are frequently amusing, especially when Brother Clarence is pulling their strings.
Beam is a show stealer as the Devil’s inside monk. Brother Clarence is full of opportunities for physical humor and raising just a little Hell.
His dance number and Riehle’s use of props for sound effects during the radio broadcasts are highlights of the show.
Director Alan Weller ‘ who first appeared on stage at the age of 4 in ‘Peter Pan’ and continued in the dramatic and musical theater, opera, television and radio ‘ makes several vocal cameos during the production.
His sound bites as the mayor, a contractor and an employee of WGOD radio station are each distinct and very well done by any standard.
Despite a disparity in talent, the casting makes chemistry out of a lemon. Beam’s Clarence calls for a little (sometimes a lot) flamboyance. The monks are simple modest monks. And Weller’s polished delivery is more treat than contrast during his brief roles.
‘Monky Business’ will be given again Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for senior citizens and students. For reservations, call Magdalena’s Restaurant at 738-8075. Hayswood Theatre can be visited online at www.hayswoodtheatre.com.

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