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THEATER REVIEW

Finding God's funny bone

Julia Sweeney's brave, hilarious, ultimately moving new solo show "Letting Go of God" is a gale-force breath of fresh air.

By Rob Kendt, Special to The Times

Oct 14 2004

Religion is just too easy a target for mockery. Seen from the outside, any supernatural belief system can seem absurd. You drink your God's blood? You could be a gnat in your next life? You can't eat what?

Which is why Julia Sweeney's brave, hilarious, ultimately moving new solo show "Letting Go of God" is a gale-force breath of fresh air. Into the mostly politic dialogue about religion in our time — which liberals of every faith have largely ceded to fired-up fundamentalists — the humbly sage Sweeney has needling questions that can't be swatted away with the laughing, lukewarm tolerance we typically afford faith-based humor, as if to say: Gosh, people believe funny things, but don't we all?

We shouldn't laugh so dismissively, Sweeney insists, at others' beliefs or our own assumptions. While she scores some easy, flawlessly deadpan laughs at the expense of Mormonism, Deepak Chopra, astrology and Catholicism, the tradition she says she was happily raised in, she is after much bigger game than cheap disdain. As she says to an imaginary God she's at last parting with near show's end: "It's because I take you so seriously that I can't bring myself to believe in you."

Looking very at home with herself, on a set dressed like a study rife with religious books and artifacts, the now white-haired Sweeney delivers her monologue with her trademark blend of ironic confidentiality and best-friend candor.

Believers of all stripes and intensities, as well as nonbelievers who may scoff a little too facilely, will be challenged and disarmed with stick-in-your-throat laughter by Sweeney's utterly uncynical, blisteringly honest testimony.


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