It was a little jarring on Friday to see The Washington Post use the headline "'Book of Mormon' deserves worship." (Okay, they didn't use it online, but check the E-paper here.) This wasn't a book they were in love with, it was a Mormon-trashing musical: "South Park creators skewer all things holy in well-crafted musical."
This worship of religion-mocking is a bit of a pattern for Post drama critic Peter Marks. At Christmas, he loved how "the Kinsey Sicks are sending up everything that's holy in 'Oy Vey in a Manger,' a raunchily audacious declaration that nothing about the holidays is sacred. " In 2008, Marks loved Sandra Bernhard vowing to tear Sarah Palin apart like a chicken, enjoying "the sneering vehemence of her delivery as the idea of the evangelical Christian candidate as kosher poultry." Marks began his rave review this way:
Matt and Trey: Where have you been all my life?
I know, I know: You’ve been indulging for years in a little scatological side business called “South Park.” But now, you’ve discovered your true calling — as the wit-spewing class clowns of Broadway.
Along with Robert Lopez, one of the uproarious brains behind “Avenue Q,” Matt Stone and Trey Parker have devised “The Book of Mormon,” the pricelessly entertaining act of musical-comedy subversion that opened Thursday night at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre.
The mighty O’Neill himself would have to have given it up for this extraordinarily well-crafted musical assault on all things holy. The marvel of “The Book of Mormon” is that even as it profanes some serious articles of faith, its spirit is anything but mean. The ardently devout and comedically challenged are sure to disagree. Anyone else should excitedly approach the altar of Parker, Stone and Lopez and expect to drink from a cup of some of the sweetest poison ever poured.
It's "anything but mean," the secular progressive declared, even if the "devout" are sure to disagree. Marks clearly doesn't care what they think. They're just "comedically challenged" if they don't share his God-hating sense of humor.
Is the play dirty? Marks barely suggests it is, and makes absolutely no attempt in this "family newspaper" to share it. He loves that it's anti-religious, that it attacks the "sin" of "blind faith," but he also likes how it attacks the "unbearable" optimism of America that's imposed on a suffering world:
It’s easier, of course, not to feel stung by comedy when your background is not the one being gored. But even with the wallop of derision that Mormonism comes in for on this evening, the wider subject for ribbing is that almost unbearable brand of optimism Americans tend to want to impose on the rest of the world. “A Mormon just believes,” Rannells’s Price sings at one point, a lyric that also seems to hold true for a national mind-set, one that clings to a faith that American hearts always remain in the right place.
“The Book of Mormon” expresses a giddy contempt for that innocence, in one of the most joyously acidic bundles Broadway has unwrapped in years. (Applause, too, for set designer Scott Pask’s gloomy rendering of an African village.) The sin it takes such fond aim at — blind faith — is one that this musical suggests observes no religious bounds.
In other words, Marks identified a "sin" of blind faith in America's goodness.