The MIssionary Position: God squad 

Horizon Theatre's political comedy gets back to the fundamentalists

Hypocritical members of the religious right become such frequent objects of ridicule because they make it so easy for satirists. If so many public figures didn't loudly condemn the same behaviors they do in private, they wouldn't be the butt of so many jokes. Horizon Theatre's political comedy The Missionary Position even contains a line, presumably added in the wake of the Sen. Larry Craig affair, that goes, "I love the way you people talk about saving souls and then get caught in the airport bathroom looking for a hum job."

Playwright Keith Reddin mostly avoids taking cheap shots at Roger (Brik Berkes), The Missionary Position's primary character. Roger works on a U.S. senator's presidential campaign as a "consultant" representing an unnamed, devoutly Christian group. In the play, Roger tries to steer the candidate toward righteous family values and away from political pragmatism during primary season. Directed with snap and substance by Heidi Cline, The Missionary Position finds humor in Roger's situation without discrediting the idea of religious faith.

Berkes infuses Roger's speeches with a kind of fatuous confidence that suggests he's utterly sincere, but not as smart as he thinks he is – it's a performance worthy of "The Colbert Report." Pious Roger serves as an awkward straight man to the campaign's earthy "money guy" Neil (Anthony Rodriguez, playing Hardy to Berkes' Laurel) and rich, brassy Julie (the uproarious Tess Malis Kincaid), who aspires to run for Congress one day. For a while, the play's confrontations in amusingly identical hotel rooms seem like unpromising, pro forma political comedy, like the way Roger squirms whenever he hears profanity or struggles to keep adult content from blaring on his television.

The play grows more compelling when it eases up on the broad shtick and reveals some serious ideas. Desperately chatting with the hotel maids (all played by Bethany Irby), Roger comes across as an isolated figure, haunted by his past and unable to form relationships, with nothing to cling to but his religious faith. He gradually emerges as a Bible-thumping equivalent to Jack Burden, the protagonist of All the King's Men who finds his personal integrity increasingly tainted by the political process.

The Missionary Position finds Roger to be an unexpectedly sympathetic figure, even though it disapproves of his ambitions to tear down the walls between church and state. We applaud when Roger suffers a final reversal worthy of Old Testament justice.

The Missionary Position. Through March 16. $16-$21. Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. Matinees March 8 and 15 at 3 p.m. Horizon Theatre, 1083 Austin Ave. 404-584-7450. www.horizontheatre.com.

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