The People’s Passion Play at Quest Theatre Ensemble | Theater review
Quest’s puppet-infused Bible pageant doesn’t do much to improve on scripture.
Sunday school would be more fun with puppets. That’s the argument made by Andrew Park and Scott C. Lamps’s new passion play, recounting key Bible stories from Genesis to the resurrection. The musical combines traditional hymns with flimsy new songs, which don’t hold up beside classics like “Amazing Grace” and “I Need Thee.” “Oh, No! Oh, Noah!” and a “12 Days of Christmas”–structured rundown of Jesus’s disciples won’t be folded into hymnals any time soon.
Narrators Peter (Ryan Gaffney), Paul (Mike Mazzocca) and Mary (Erin Daly) make an engaging trio. Their relaxed energy and tight harmonies keep the show moving, with Daly giving a particularly powerful vocal performance. Quest’s signature puppetry enlivens the familiar stories—Noah’s flood, Moses’s plagues, the birth and death of Christ—but getting those puppets in position often leads to distracting backstage noise.
While the Bible adaptations are entertaining enough, Park’s insertion of contemporary political issues drags down Act II. After Jesus is crucified, figures hold small crosses with the names of recent tragedies, including the shootings at Sandy Hook, the Empire State Building and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. There’s a connection made between the senseless violence of these crimes and Jesus’s death, but it reads as a last-minute grab for relevance.