The Inconvenient Miracle

What happens when you cross Mean Girls with a modern-day Annunciation?

By Andrew Andrews

Karen Joy Pangantihon, Morgan Misk, Samantha Streich, Bella Anaya Hathorne, and Deijah Faulkner in The Skeleton Rep(resents)’ production of The Inconvenient Miracle: A Mysterious Birth Musical by Emily Claire Schmitt, Emily Rose Simons and Ria T. DiLullo. Original photos by Ahron R. Foster.

Fourteen-year-old atheist Vanessa Rosales is trying to survive Saint Angie’s Catholic School for Girls, supported only by her one friend, Trisha, and her grandmother, Marjory.

Although Vanessa tries to fly under the radar, her popular classmate, Abigail, claims to be a prophet receiving important messages from The Almighty: specifically, that the virgin Vanessa has been chosen to birth the second coming of the Messiah.

Vanessa responds by punching Abigail in the face, leading to a detention imposed by Sister Florence that involves trying to grow carrots in the barren convent garden in the middle of winter. If the carrots grow, both Abigail and Sister Florence will interpret the feat as a sign from God.

In the interest of science, Vanessa consents to bearing the child, to prove that religion in general, and Abigail specifically, are frauds. But when Vanessa starts to develop symptoms that WebMD diagnoses as pregnancy, all hell breaks lose in this little corner of heaven on earth.

Chock-full of satire about Catholicism and cults, The Inconvenient Miracle combines all of the antics, song and dance of a traditional musical comedy with healthy doses of both veneration and skepticism.

Nicola Barrett (not shown) joins Gael Schaefer and Ellen Orchid to complete the cast, directed by DiLullo.

This is one of those early plays that shows great promise at becoming a hit on Broadway after a little more time in the workshop. Right now, I’d say about 75% of it is perfect.

The first act would end more naturally before the last three numbers, but it’s otherwise very nicely developed: the songs are all well-written, with catchy tunes and refined lyrics, and the script is engaging.

The second half starts out with similar strength, but begins to degenerate around the song “You Are Alive.” It’s as if the play has already been revised a few times, but in each case they ran out of time about three-quarters of the way through, and didn’t address the weaknesses in the music, lyrics and the final buildup to the climax.

This specific production has its own shortcomings, with a lack of air conditioning in the venue resulting in the use of fans that often drown out the performers, who need more direction in projecting their voices. That said, the actors show a great deal of talent and enthusiasm for their roles—although all of the “girls” are clearly much older than the 14-year-olds they portray. And while the lone piano accompaniment gets the job done, a show like this really needs (and deserves) a full orchestra.

Summer at the Episcopal Actors Guild might not make for the best venue, but the staff is very welcoming and friendly, and the donation-based offering of cold beverages and even boozy freeze pops makes the warm room all the more bearable. Perhaps because it was presented in a church, my partner thought the story was a little too “preachy,” but I suspect it wouldn’t come across that way if performed in a more secular space.

General admission seats will cost you about $27, and despite its deficiencies, I still believe you’ll get your money’s worth and enjoy the performance at that price. But with a little more work, better venue, full band and higher production value, this show will be miraculous.

3

Andrew Andrews attended The Inconvenient Miracle at Episcopal Actors Guild in Manhattan on Thursday, August 11, 2022 @ 7:00pm to write this review.