“My name is…and I am addicted to New Age scams.” So confesses one participant at a meeting for people hooked on “personal growth.” It’s one of the more fanciful segments of Seth Lepore’s entertaining new solo piece in which he explores and, usually, skewers the religious, spiritual, and self-help practices and philosophies he’s sampled or followed during a years-long quest for “personal growth.”
In intensely energetic style Lepore plays a variety of gurus, coaches, and facilitators: the cold Catholic priest, the bigger-than-life wealth evangelist, the Buddhist religious leader, the man-as-warrior group leader (be sure you’ve signed your “warrior waiver”), the yoga entrepreneur, and so on, their presentations nested around autobiographical vignettes by “Seth,” a stage version of Lepore himself. It’s a funny, often biting indictment of sincere clergy and self-help charlatans alike, but without disparaging the urge many people have to pursue “spiritual” enlightenment.
Some segments are sharper and more forceful than others. The yoga entrepreneur’s presentation feels a bit scattered, and the closing personal monologue tastes a little too syrupy for me, especially in contrast with the acidity of the rest of the show. But for the most part Lepore scores decisively, creating vivid, exaggerated but recognizable personalities and applying to each the appropriate snarl, beckon, preen, or verbal flounce.
“Fuck this dogma,” spits the adult Seth at the imposition of a new last-minute requirement for graduating to bodhisattva status. But in a telling move, rather than walk out, he resolves to accept the honor and forge ahead meeting his own standards rather than those imposed by the religious authorities. The incident harks back to the younger Seth’s encounter with the brittle priest we met at the beginning. Because, of course, it’s a perpetual quest; Seth doesn’t find his answer. It isn’t, as he finally recognizes, something one simply looks for and then suddenly encounters.
One thing it can be is an entertaining and provocative little piece of theater. Losing My Religion runs irregularly through March 2 as part of this year’s Frigid Festival.