In case you missed the news, we’ve a playwright in the priesthood: Fr. Kyle Kowalczyk, pastor of the Church of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Delano, has also written, directed, produced, and acted in theatrical productions since high school. This week and next, his Catholic community theater company, Missed the Boat Theatre, is performing Moonshine Abbey, an original musical by Fr. Kyle and composer Sam Backman. It tells the story of a community of monks trying to preserve its rule, identity, and livelihood of brewing beer and distilling spirits during Prohibition.
Fr. Solomon, the abbot, is struggling to maintain order in the Order, as the brothers drift back into the ways of the world, neglecting their habits; eating, drinking, and talking when they ought to be fasting and silent; arriving late and unrepentant to prayer. But when the county goes dry and the local (exclusively female) constabulary begins sniffing around the monastery as the possible source of the alcohol still flowing freely in the region, the monks must pretend to be devout. The arrival of a new postulant and a mysterious investigator from the Vatican send ripples through the entire community, leading to laughs and life lessons for everyone involved, as characters on both sides of the law begin to discover their true selves and God-given purpose.
If that last line sounds a bit too serious, rest assured that this is a musical comedy, incorporating musical styles from Gregorian chant to Roaring-’20s jazz, dance styles from flapper swing to mock classical ballet, and a clear grasp of the humor involved in being called to holiness and nonetheless human. A highlight near the mid-point of the play has one character mourning the loss of his presumed vocation. The song is genuinely heartwrenching and powerfully performed…until his imagination carries him past the brink and into the depths of despair. The result is so hilarious the audience is unsure whether to laugh or to cry, and may actually do both!
It is appropriate for all ages and both genders; Jodi and 10-year-old Lily loved it as much as I did, and we’ve been quoting it all morning. Tickets are available for all shows, and if you’re a Catholic in the Twin Cities area, you’ll likely run into someone you know. (It was a great blessing to see so many Companions of Christ priests and seminarians in the audience last night, supporting their brother’s production.) Recommendation: Don’t miss it!
Where: Helene Houle Auditorium at Saint Agnes School (530 Lafond Ave, St. Paul, MN 55103)
More information: missedtheboattheatre.com
Full disclosure: One of the lead roles is performed by a friend of Gabe’s from NET, Elie Laville; another is a parent from Trevor’s high school, Nikelle Morris; and a supporting role is played by Alex Schindler, the new praise and worship music leader at St. Michael Catholic Church. Additionally, I recently interviewed Fr. Kyle for an upcoming issue of the Companions of Christ newsletter and discovered that I also wrote about him when he was a high-school senior performing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream 22 year ago. (That story was a favorite of mine; it orginally ran in the Pioneer newspaper, Big Rapids, Michigan, circa 1999.) Even with these slight biases, I’m confident you’ll enjoy the show. Get there!