Bible Study for Heathens is one woman’s fateful journey through faith that will make even the most undevout sit up, listen and most of all howl with laughter – believe it.
Let me start this review by stating as a self-defining heathen I feel that at once I am both the perfect and imperfect reviewer for what I believe to be a vital piece of theater wonderfully written and performed by the New York Neo-Futurist Yolanda K. Wilkinson.
Heathens is equally hilarious as it is bold, with Wilkinson taking the audience through her path in faith and the inconsistencies, hypocrisy and immorality that she has had to endure along the way.
The play in moments touches upon issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ community, alluding to North Carolina’s recent controversial anti-trans bathroom bill, as well as the Ugandan anti-homosexuality – “kill the gays” – law that came to prominence in 2014.
Despite there historically being a difficult relationship between organized religion and the LGBTQIA+ community, Heathens navigates this with humor and ease, acting in moments as a community champion, and going as far as to put tongue firmly in cheek to suggest that biblical David and Jonathan were the first gay marriage!
There were moments in which I probably would have benefited from having a a better understanding of some of the religious references, – hence self-defined heathen – however overall this didn’t take away the enjoyment in what was an engaging evening.
Although Heathens excels as a fantastic solo performance from Wilkinson, a notable mention should be given to the ‘role’ of the Judson Memorial Church. The church plays its part in the production through an inventive and often comic use of lighting that draw attention to both its beautiful fin-de-siècle interior, and the fact that this play, perhaps challenging for some religious traditionalists, is being staged in a place of worship.
Bible Study for Heathens is a challenging and vital piece of contemporary theater that speaks to the difficulties of finding one’s place within a broad religious landscape. As an interactive and topical piece it hits the mark with both relevance and humor.