60m | Improv | Mature
As the name suggests Jesus Christ Private Investigator tells the story of Jesus of Nazareth, back for a third stint in the mortal world, this time as a redeemer of justice for the Miami PD. The performance by GRIMprov, a local improv troupe, takes an easily parodied genre (’80s cop show), a pile of silly hats (Santa, yacht captain, fedora), a bare bones stage, and a overworked sound technician trying to match the correct music to the ever-changing plot and strings together an hour of awkward moments, perfect for anyone who wants to cringe for an entire performance.
Since the story will change with every performance there might be minimal utility in recounting the plot here, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. A renegade maverick who plays by his own rules, JC has — up until now — been relieved of his duties, but when the son of the mayor of Miami is found in the trunk of a car which also had expired license plate stickers (the audience selected the crime at the beginning of the show) the chief brings him back to the force and teams him up with Tobias, another loose cannon (two loose cannons!) to solve the case.
Tongues are firmly planted in cheek for the entire performance as the cast delivers typical cop drama lines like, “he’s the best detective we’ve got.” And Jesus, burdened with his eternal love for all humanity, struggles with the ethical dilemmas it takes to be an ass-kicking detective in Miami. In one part he has to transform his heart, with the help of a scientist/baker, to suspend his eternal compassion, kick some bad guy ass, and get the job done.
Given that I had the luxury of a pen and paper I probably had an easier time following the plot than the five performers, who struggled, for comedic effect, to keep a consistent story going. They took advantage of these opportunities to point out plot holes and inconsistent behaviour (“Weren’t you holding a knife?”) in order to see how the team would adjust the story to save face. (“Oh right, now I’ve got blood on my shirt!”) These moments often led to further absurd plot twists. The biggest laughs came from the cast struggling hardest to keep the plot together when it looked like the whole thing might fall apart.
The entire performance relied on this awkwardness for most its humour, though there were a few genuinely clever jokes sprinkled in as well. The highlight for me was the opening scene where the group attempted to recreate a montage style opening credit scene by simply describing to the audience the special effects and the words that would by flying across the screen had they had a bigger budget.
It looked like the cast had a lot of fun up there, and if awkwardness and absurdity are your thing, then you will too.
Jesus Christ Private Investigator by GRIMprov is playing at Café Nostalgica (601 Cumberland) on Saturday, June 18 at 10:30pm; Sunday, June 19 at 5:30pm; Monday, June 20 at 8:00pm; Tuesday, June 21 at 9:30pm; Wednesday, June 22 at 6:30pm; Friday, June 24 at 7:30pm; Saturday, June 25 at 10:30pm; and Sunday, June 26 at 4:00pm.
Tickets are $12.