Seattle Public Theater, 524-1300. Through April 15.
I'm pretty sure a priest was there the night I saw Incorruptible, chuckling fiercely while most of the audience laughed at the sight of bumbling 13th-century monks trying to win favor with the Pope. The play is about an abbot of a poor monastery who gets a brilliant idea from a minstrel: To gain Rome's approval and money, the monks dig up random graves and pass off those bones as those of holy saints and martyrs. In the Middle Ages, people thought such bones worked miracles and healed the sick.
I bet it's hard for anyone today (playwrights, actors, viewers) not to feel either a touch superior or baffled when looking back at medievals through the lens of history and the Enlightenment--hurdle #1 for period plays like this. But this two-act production's strengths lie with its cast and director; blame weaknesses on the playwright, Michael Hollinger, an East Coast writer whose works have been performed off-Broadway and at various regional theaters. Incorruptible's humor is too broad and familiar to have any bite--irreverent church laffs are far from original circa A.D. 2001. Hollinger's themes aren't super-stimulating, though the eerie idea of an incorruptible--a dead person so holy his/her body doesn't ever decay--helps this play finish a little deeper than it begins.
Incorruptible's plot unwinds like automatic clockwork: predictable, if cleanly wrought. But director B. J. Douglas' quick pacing gives the production vitality, as does the cast's articulation of the goofy monks' befuddlements and antics. Todd Stratton as the dimwitted Brother Olf stood out for a sort of whole-body commingling with his earnest, doltish character, and Brian Weaver, as Brother Felix, had a tremulous vulnerability that invited sympathy. Most of the cast avoids stereotypes, thus saving the play from dreckdom.