The Lyric Stage Company of Boston production
Review Quote Sheet
From the BOSTON GLOBE (Ellen Pfeifer, 1/7/2003)
“BEYOND BELIEF is a poignant, playful mix of sex and religion.”
“Alternately hilarious, preposterous and tragic…”
“With three outstanding actresses in the roles of Gert, Alma and Marjorie, Neary’s clever dialogue and skewed wit pack the maximum punch.”
“(Colton) breaks everyone’s heart when, in the final playlet, she recounts in excruciating detail her personal bereavement as the results of a priest’s sexual transgressions…This vignette and Colton’s haunting performance take the breath away.”
“Neary should craft a few more porch scenes for the three ladies—certainly there is plenty of sexual absurdity out there to keep the trio baffled to the end of their days.”
From the BOSTON HERALD (Robert Nesti, 1/7/03)
“Jack Neary’s crowd-pleasing look at Catholicism.”
“The writing is…effective, largely due to the deeply touching performance of Colton as a woman wrestling with a long-hidden secret.”
“This entertainment shrewdly, if coyly, lampoons Catholics’ repressed attitudes about sexuality.”
“Neary’s direction is sharp throughout, and he has found an ideal trio of local actresses for his Golden Girls: Steinbach bakes a delightfully tart Gert, McMahon is a master of the deadpan expression as Marjorie, and Colton brings pathos to what easily could have been the most stereotypical character.”
From the LOWELL SUN (Nancye Tuttle, 1/8/03)
“BEYOND BELIEF: Faith can be fun.”
“SECRETS, which deals with priestly celibacy and the issues facing the church today, steps back from the comedy and offers a one-two dramatic punch as Alma shares her family’s secrets with her friends in a stirring, thought-provoking climax.”
“They play it for laughs and get plenty…But in the end it is the poignant ‘why and how did it happen?’ question that reverberates through BEYOND BELIEF, proving once again Neary’s ability to elicit serious reflection through the laughter and tears.”
From the INDEPENDENT REVIEW (Jason Fitzgerald, January 2003)
“It was only a matter of time before the current crisis in the Catholic Church found expression in the theater, so it is no surprise that the Catholic-themed show now making its world premiere at the Lyric Stage Co., Beyond Belief, places the abuse scandal in the heart of its climactic last scene. What is surprising is what playwright Jack Neary does for the first hour and a half. As the curtain rises we are presented with the perfect comedic formula: Three old ladies (á la The Golden Girls) on a front porch in a Boston suburb, all of them strictly Catholic, and all of them talking about sex. Beyond Belief is a laugh-riot, as the three women try to explain to each other just what President Clinton claims he didn't do with that "Polish secretary," or why the "homeless sexuals" want a community center of their own. Although their conversations do not make up the entire show—a pair of comic vignettes provides variety, if not a whole lot else—the show is entirely theirs, much to the credit of actresses Ellen Colton, Cheryl McMahon, and Bobbie Steinbach. The image of these three old women reading the newspapers and struggling to comprehend the state of the world around them is the perfect metaphor for a Church whose tragic flaw is that it is of another time. It must fight to maintain its dignity and relevance amidst ever-changing value systems it was never designed to handle. When "The Issue," as Neary calls it in his liner notes, is finally discussed, we realize that the consequences of that struggle are not always cute, not always comic, but sometimes unfathomably tragic. It is a good time for a show like Beyond Belief. It should be praised for being a piece of real entertainment that, before it lets us go, has the power to ask: What are we really laughing at?”
From THEATRE NEW ENGLAND.COM (Larry Blumsack), January 2003
“Boston's Off-Broadway scene continues to showcase top local professional acting talent. This time it is the Lyric Stage Company's world premiere of playwright/director Jack Neary's often exceptional comedy, "Beyond Belief or Catholics are People too!"
Neary the playwright clearly has a gift for creating endearing characters and brilliant, riotous, acerbic, comedic dialogue. His three porch sitting, matronly Catholic ladies uproariously attempt to make sense of a new and vastly more complex society that openly discusses oral sex (Clinton/Lewinsky style), the alternative lifestyles of "homeless sexuals" and lesbians, ménage a trois and papal-blessed pedophilia.
Neary the director's world premier production at the Lyric Stage plays every note written into his script with a trio of wonderful actresses who will bring you to side splitting laughter and heart tugging empathy. Bobby Steinbach (Gert) with the best dialogue in the playlets is the gritty, snappy, smug, has-the-answer-or-definition-for-everything, worldly explainer of all types of sex. Ellen Colton (Alma) is the "I just don't get", dithering, early stage of dementia, pupil of all this new sex. Cheryl McMahon (Marjorie) is the quiet "we don't/shouldn't talk about that", literal definer of terms and protector of Alma.
The evening consists of six playlets, four of which feature our porch-sitting Catholic Ladies ménage a trois openly and hilariously bantering sexual issues that were verboten 50 years ago. One could call the evening "The Catechism of Sex Education of Alma". Alma is the "straight (man) person" of this trio of comics in every sense of the term both theatrical and literal. Her pure innocence is playwright Neary's perfect foil for all his parodies and for his very poignant and dramatic conclusion of the evening. Alma turns the tables when she educates Gert and Marjorie on church-condoned pedophilia. It is an extremely powerful scene that could be even more powerful if Alma's apparent lucidity was less abrupt.
Neary has created a perfect mix for his cutting laceration of blind-faith, religious conservatism. The four Gert, Alma, Marjorie playlets showcase some of the best comedy/parody writing, direction and performances I've experienced in my 40+ years in the theatre.
From NEWBURY STREET REVIEW (January, 2003)
The Lyric Stage Company of Boston presents
Beyond Belief or Catholics are People too!
What would the Vatican say?
Beyond Belief: Bobbie Steinbach, Ellen Colton & Cheryl McMahon
Photo by Sheila Ferrini
Beyond Beliefis the latest offering in the 2002-2003 Lyric Stage Company of Boston theatre season. Written and directed by Jack Neary who directed the very successful 2001-2002 production of Lend Me a Tenor, Neary brings his great comic skills back to the Boston stage with a world premiere on the subject of being Catholic.
This conglomeration of playlets includes three of the funniest "seniors" I’ve seen on stage in a long time. Gert, played by Bobbie Steinbach, is hysterical with her unmistakable Boston accent as she starts trouble asking the questions Catholics are not suppose to ask. Ellen Colton, is superb as the naïve and innocent Alma who finds it interesting that a group of "homeless-sexual" people want to start a shelter. "They’re not homeless-sexual," Gert explains, "they’re homosexual!"
Cheryl McMahon skillfully plays Majorie who accepts life as a Catholic should and definitely doesn’t want to explain anything to Alma. These three characters are found on the porch where they discuss hot topics including oral sex and how that relates to President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, priestly celibacy, Lesbians and Gays and menàge á trois. The ladies are blunt, funny and this audience couldn’t get enough of them.
There was an extraordinary chemistry with these three characters and the audience wanted much more.
Bravo to Lyric Stage Company of Boston for taking chances on new theatre works. Fine performances and excellent direction makes this an event not to be missed.
From AISLE SAY (Will Stackman, January, 2003)
“What Neary has done, to the best of his considerable ability, is raise the question of how the Catholic laity views sex, in the face of the rote instruction from "repressed virgins." The show has no answers. Clearly saying you're sorry isn't enough--even if you really mean it. But it might be a start. It will be interesting to see what theatres, professional or community, pick up this script.”