A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant does to L. Ron Hubbard what The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui did to Adolf Hitler: It reduces him to ridiculous, contemptible proportions. By casting actors aged between eight and 12, writer Kyle Jarrow and director Alex Timbers (otherwise known as Les Freres Corbusier) accentuate the puerile absurdity of Scientology’s tenets as well as the childlike naïveté of those who believe such nonsense. Learning of Hubbard’s theory about Thetan spirits banished to earth by galactic ruler Xenu, we become ever more convinced that the subject matter is perfectly suited to the realms of pre-pubescent rationality. Just as Ui doesn’t explain the complex phenomenon of the Third Reich, Scientology Pageant doesn’t probe the psychology of cults; instead, both demystify subjects whose appeal stems in no small part from the mystique their acolytes have attributed to them.
Transcending gimmickry, the use of a young cast doesn’t make Scientology Pageant a one-gag play. Clocking in at just under an hour, the script—a musical satire version of a saint’s play—punches its points home quickly. Timbers has wisely counseled the kids to avoid too much irony, aware that the material generates its own comic absurdity without nudges or winks. The children, garbed in the outer-space-alien equivalent of togas, generate a respectable ensemble chemistry. In the end, they even manage to hint at the reservoir of misery that leads people to seek solace in Scientology or other sects. Standing under umbrellas outside the theater on 42nd Street, the boys and girls, still in their togas, stare dead-eyed through a window at the audience as we hear a recording of them singing—”Just don’t ask questions, and everything is clear.”