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Colder by the Lake

The Jack Chick Plays

Location + schedule

U of M Rarig Center Arena
330 21st Av S, Second Floor

DateTimeMy FringeAccess
Thursday 8/510:00 p.m.  
Saturday 8/77:00 p.m.  
Sunday 8/81:00 p.m.  
Friday 8/135:30 p.m.  
Sunday 8/154:00 p.m.  
About the show

For ages 16+
Comedy, Satire, Queer/GLBT, Religious

Created by Jean Michaels Sramek
From Duluth, MN

Overall rating

Jack Chick Clicks at Fringe! The Minneapolis Star-Tribune calls The Jack Chick Plays "genius" and "screamingly funny." The Pioneer Press likes us too. The Examiner calls the show "a comic experience of the most delightfully bizarre."

This show is Recommended Fringing by Bill Corbett and Minnesota Monthly lists this show among Fringe productions that are très intriguing.

Fun-sized fundamentalist comics adapted for the secular stage. It's like getting spanked with a King James Bible; whether sinful or sanctimonious, your buttocks will throb with shame and glee.

Here's the deal. You know those religious tracts, distributed by enthusiastic Christians, not that there's anything wrong with that? You find them on the bus, under windshield wipers, or (waitresses!) on a four-top in lieu of a tip? Yeah, those. Most of 'em are written and distributed by a real guy: Jack T. Chick. You can browse tracts to your heart's content at Chick Publications, Inc.. God knows they're fun to read. But why stop there? We didn't. Colder by the Lake (Duluth's original comedy theater) kicks this 2-D world into 3-D. Each tract is a cautionary tale: either you accept precious-blood-donating Jesus as your personal savior, or you swim in the Lake o' Fire. There's not much gray area, especially if you're counting on your good works to save you.

The show's arsenal is stocked with Satan's horns, angels' wings, the faceless face of God, fake mustaches and a smart, sexy, funny-looking cast of six, who play a total of 66 different characters (nine of whom speak Spanish). Featured sins include but are not limited to: drunkenness, greed, promiscuity, homosexuality, and believing that man came from monkeys.

Does your name appear in The Book of Life? Probably not. But see the show and find out, specifically, WHY not. You'll receive your very own set of Chick tracts at the door, so you can read (and pray) along.

ps Yeah, the show description says "Free candy." Well ... Jesus saw what you did, and put all the candy away.

Christine Dean
Role: Celebrity Narrator
well-connected Geek with the voice of an angel. Hardcore cider.

Gary Kruchowski
Role: Policeman, Drunk Guy, Pilot, Goo Monkey, Death, Rich Man, God, Bartender, Gay Sean, Abraham
knows that raccoons love hot dogs. Leinie's is fine if that's all you have cold.

Jess McCullough
Role: Satan's Assistant, Ed, Evolved Golfer, God, Captain, Angel, Thug, Doctor, Handsome Videoer, Lot
seems like a nice young man with many fine qualities. Bell's Two-Hearted Ale.

Chris Nollet
Role: Satan, Rev. Davidson, Tyler, Chester, Thug, Shoe Vendor, Senorita, Charlie, Angel
not so much a lion of the theatre, more like porpoise or a shark. Whatever's in the well.

Bruce Ojard
Role: visuals/effects wiz ... and the voice of Jack T. Chick
just one wife and a mortgage-free house away from being homeless. Beck's Dark.

Cathy Podeszwa
Role: Debbie, Stewardess, Angel, Cathy, Goo Monkey, Sailor, Mama, Protestor, Sodomite
for a fee, will arrange your stuffed animals in evolutionary order. Surly Furious.

Christa Schulz
Role: Rita Jones, Passenger, God, Secular Mom, Aunt Sophie, Sailor, Juan, Protestor, Angel
boots of Wonder Woman, power of Medusa. Dirty Bombay Sapphire martini.

Cheryl Skafte
Role: Jill, Mrs. Davidson, Goo Monkey, Lil' Devil, Mrs. Chester, Juanito, Protestor, Sodomite
survived caterpillar attack in Two Harbors. Bud Lite with two big olives.

Jean Sramek
Role: Director/Producer
recovering Catholic with above-average forearm strength. Maker's Mark, neat.

User reviews

Horribly Funny
by Kevin Drew Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
I laughed my ass off. I loved that Colder by the Lake clearly understood that the earnest, childish fearmongering Chick Tracts are ridiculous enough on their own and let Jack Chick do the work, adding just a few well-placed touches of their own. Thanks for trusting the audience, where most people can't mock heavy-handed religion without explaining the joke. Handing out the tracts with an explanatory note of "We're not making this stuff up, folks", genius.

Why does this work where others fail?
by Fluffy Singler Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
I'm still not sure, but I think it has something to do with the fact that they used the original tracts and did not supply any (verbal) commentary -- the commentary was in the staging. I also loved the cheesy costumes--God with a hockey mask, the cheap devil horns, etc. Maybe it's the fact that I didn't go to very many spoofish fringe shows, so I wasn't burned out. At any rate, I laughed my ass off.

am i going to hell?
by mark browning milner Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
i liked this very much, and i'm thrilled to have a complete set of the scripts... even though they didn't mock the text (mostly they just put the words as written up on the stage - and i really appreciate at least the one deletion they made, in "doom town"), i felt occasionally guilty laughing at this stuff. evangelicals can be idiots, but they honestly believe this nonsense, and sometimes it felt a bit odd laughing at it, laughable though it may be. i guess what i'm saying is that this show made me think more than i thought it would. and, as an agnostic, i really really hope jack chick's cosmology is not correct...

Funny the first time...
by Sid Solomon Follow this reviewer
Rating 2 kitties
In this parody of the Jack Chick tracts, the joke is on the content. But with five lenghy vignettes, the joke is over well before the play is done.

Oh My God!
by Kathy Dodge Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
We had two favorites of the Fest where god took a beating.. Graphic tracts brillantly adapted for stage. Tracts are easy targets. Great acting troupe. Colder by the Lake, you make us hicks from the Northland proud.

Hilarious Playing it Straight
by David Trudeau Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
The Jack Chick comics are already so over the top in terms of melodramatic impact getting their version of Christian fundamentalism across that this Duluth Playhouse troupe had only to play as written and voila - satire that creates itself. Very enjoyable - unless you might be an offended fundamentalist but hey folks all they did was follow the script! Everyone provided with a set of the mini comics just so we could see the act did not stray one jot from the holy writ.

If there is a god, god is smiling.
by Olivia Gault Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
When we stood in line and looked the Jack Chick religious tracts, I had second thoughts. This stuff is real -- and it isn't kind. I hadn't planned on an hour with the Christian-right, being shown my way to hell if I didn't see the light. I am SO GLAD I stayed in line. The plays come straight out of the tracts, verbatim, no editing, no pulling back to talk things over and put a more balanced perspective on the message. And because the actors and director have the courage to present the message in Jack Chick's context, the bizarre cruel nature of his religion comes through with a dark dark humor. I laughed and laughed, glad I was not caught in his net. I hope this might help others see the face of this religion that has no compassion.

Comic Duality
by Susan vanDruten Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
"too much satire"; "not enough satire"

"over the top"; "doesn't go far enough"

"not for everyone"; "a goofy good time"

The reviews for this show prove how perfectly it succeeds in being good art:
The producer and actors have left all the truths in there for thinking audience members to mine out for themselves.

A guilty pleasure
by vickijoan keck Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I was raised on those tracts so it's quite fun to see them acted out on stage. The cast is very capable and creative in their interpretation of the text. I like that they don't pass any judgement or make a mockery, just perform them as is and let the audience find the humor. I am a (liberal) Christian and felt a bit guilty for laughing so much at the insipid ideas. It does make me worry that people will see all Christians as being like this. I am noticing that it is non believers who seem most interested in seeing this show, probably to fuel their fire.

by David Rust Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
Jack Chick is a legend. I remember very well my first encounter with one of his tracts. It was at the State Fair grounds and someone had left the little comic lying out for others to read. Being a child, I thought it would be pretty neat.

No such luck.

The quasi-EC-Comic style art was horrific and the story made no sense to my Presbyterian mind. It was cruel and heartless, espousing such a strictness of moral behavior that I immediately adopted an "avoid Jack Chick" mentality that has persisted in my life ever since. The only exception was when "Dark Dungeons" came out and -as a gamer- I felt compelled to see what Mr. Chick had to say about it.

"The Jack Chick Plays" is a very funny telling of six of those little pamphlets. The actors bring the script to life word-for-word without altering it. This is Chick's dialogue. What makes it funny is either A) how bad the dialogue is, and/or B) how disturbing the presentation is. One woman, sitting across the theater from me, had a sour look on her face the whole time. I don't think she enjoyed it. And, yes, you have to be of a certain mind-set to like seeing Jack Chick paraded ("parodied?") in this fashion. Having God show up as a white, hockey-mask wearing figure in long robes was brilliant and hilarious. It is all the more funny since that's how Chick tracts depict him (well, minus the hockey mask part; in the drawings he is a robe-wearing being with a blank, glowing face). I know this because I was given -like everyone else- the "script" for the play upon entering so I could follow along. Everyone received 6 Chick tracts that contained the original source material for the play.

If you like productions that skewer the extremists in religion, this is definitely for you. Chick, in many ways, is hoisted on his own petard.

The only detraction from the show was the next-to-last act. The tale was called "Little Shoes" and, as the voice-over intro describes it -taken from a Jack Chick letter to his distributors- it is "very big with the Mexican community". The cast performed it in Spanish. This was really an excellent idea except that I, not being a Spanish-speaker, became actually creeped out by the story. After all, where you cannot understand the language you must follow the action you see on the stage ... and that action, without being able to hear the dreadful dialogue, was plenty creepy.

Still, the play was very good and I'd pay to see it again. The over-the-top, unyielding, and schadenfreude-laden tales may be unsettling in so far as knowing that many people literally believe it but its made humorous by the presentation by excellent performers.

Sad but true
by Victoria Olson Follow this reviewer
Rating 2 kitties
Clever idea using horribly real tracts, but I was hoping for more. Not sure what, but something.

Over the top
by Keith Nelson Follow this reviewer
Rating 0 kitties
Making fun of fundamentalists has been done before and is easy fodder for those with differing view points. This show was over the top and lacked true wit and originality. There were funny moments, but overall lacked anything defining.

"This show is not for everyone"???
by Steve Plude Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Everyone's favorite tag line for this show (see subject)seems inflated.
The accurate portrayal of the Jack Chick comic tracts is not only intriguing, but also hilarious.
No, this show is not for everyone; it's not for extreme Christian fundamentalists who are still in the stone ages as far as homosexuality, evolution, and ethnic understanding is concerned... but those folks probably have issues with the theater too.
This show puts the stark reality of religious fundamentalism into a comedic format by turning their own weapons against them.

funny, provocative
by paul schulz Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Plenty of laughs, and will make you feel uncomfortable at times. It does what good art should do: it entertains and demands that you think.

An Okay Effort
by Mark Long Follow this reviewer
Rating 2 kitties
The show is somewhat clunky and creepy, and definitely not for everyone.
Although their tongue is firmly in their cheek, the plays fall short of solid religious lampooning.

Provocative and unforgettable
by Marcia Skafte Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Not to be missed:a jolt of reality about the irony and absurdity of fundamentalist tracts. Top notch acting.

Great Premise, Could Go Further!
by Andrew Fafoutakis Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
A talented cast takes the stage to re-create the "comics" of Jack Chick, but the players could definitely take the humor and premise further. There are times when the cast comments on the action of the plays, but at other times, they seem to shrink from any sort of responsibility. The cast uses some creative staging and bring a fast, frenzied energy that could be tightened up to increase the pacing of the piece.

Good Idea!
by Larry Ripp Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
Here is a show I would rate high just because it's an "gee, I wish I had thought of that." Granted, an hour is pushing it for this sort of thing as Chick Comics are for a laugh, for about 10 minutes. After that it's repetitive and simply shooting ducks in a small pail. Also, in this show you can see the winking now and then. GOOD satire HAS to be playing absolutely straight and with no camp. Otherwise you have Satire upon satire and it's gilding the lilly. There was some of that here and that's too bad. With a bit of different direction you would have a great 20 minute piece...

Free ticket to comedy heaven
by Jim Skoog Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Who would have thought evangelical Christian cartoon comics would be so damn funny when acted out word for word? Was this Jack Chick's inside joke?
Was he a secret satirist, creating his little books for a free ticket into comedy heaven? I laughed many times, especially when people were damned to hell. Keep your eyes open for the "cook on the tanker." LMAO! Still laughing at this guy.
The Spanish scene is loaded with laughs (I still feel guilty for laughing at Spanish-spoken poverty. I’ll have to clear that up on Sunday.) Doom Town is another favorite scene which offers a little gay-bashing to tickle your funny-bone (be sure to follow along in your booklet for this one, OMG!) A very clever project. See for yourself how good the good word can give you giggles.

Silly, enthusiastic fun!
by TJ Hara Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
This show was a goofy good time, and not a bad pick for my first show of Fringe. Distributing copies of the Chick Tracts enacted in the show was a neat gimmick—referring back to them as each one was performed seemed like a minor distraction from the show at first, but the Bazooka Joe visuals fill in the blanks of the sparse Fringe stage quite nicely. I would easily recommend this show to any Fringers looking for a "light and fun" block in their schedule.

Repent and be Saved
by Tim Voss Follow this reviewer
Rating 2 kitties
Jack Chick religious tracts are self-parodying. Unfortunately, acting them on stage, as written, isn't quite good enough for an hour of theatre. There are some real laughs here, especially in Los Zapatitos which is done wholly in Spanish. Even so, it remains an "almost" effort that doesn't push campy or satire far enough.

Behold the word of Jack!
by Fringivitis Vulgaris Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
Jesus H. Christ on a step ladder! This show is not for everyone. You certainly don't need to be a believer but you'd better have a tongue that fits your cheek comfortably. Free with ticket: a packet of genuine Jack Chick tracts that serve as the script for this very Fringe-y show. You'll laugh, you'll admire the hats, you'll wonder how the author knows so much about the details of the Fiery Lake.