Though it may be possible to create a more controversial subject for a play, I certainly couldn't do so myself. That's why the world needs people like Steven DeVries, the writer who founded Le Theatre du Blaspheme in August 2002 to showcase this play and other, similarly "blasphemous" works. On the subject of this blasphemy, DeVries says,
'Blaspheme' is used in a broader sense, as in irreverently challenging popular notions or ideas as a whole – not necessarily religion. That said – how some people act on their religious beliefs might come up for question. The name isn’t to be taken too seriously – it raises eyebrows, gets attention and was cast in French for that extra measure of pretentiousness.
The play itself is a quirky, irreverent look at suicide bombers and their motives, presented as both a comedy and a musical. The main plot revolves around disgruntled newspaper reporter Steve DeVries, who mysteriously disappears from his home in New Jersey only to turn up eight years later outside a nightclub in Tel Aviv, wearing "enough explosives to hollow out a small mountain." After Steve's unfortunate and untimely demise, his former coworker Paul Milo decides to uncover the truth behind Steve's bizarre suicide, and the audience learns in the end that the truth is stranger than... well, all right, the truth is fiction, but it's still quite strange.

The show I saw was at the Sanford Meisner Theatre in New York City, and only runs until March 23, 2003. For the benefit of those unable to see a live performance, I will do my best to summarize the play below. If you'd actually like to see the show, step lively, get some tickets (only $15), and don't read what comes next for fear of spoilers. (Note: I'm working from memory, here, so if I get a few things in the wrong order or leave out some details, be kind.)

The show begins with a visit from Kalif, a singin' suicide bomber who plans to take out the entire playhouse with his little red button. After a hilarious musical number dedicated to the death of the infidels, Kalif succeeds in blowing himself (and, apparently, the audience) up.

The main plot begins with reporter Paul Milo, who describes the fate of the late Steve DeVries. We are given the full story behind Steve's death: before going into the nightclub to detonate his bomb, Steve stopped outside to take a leak. Unfortunately a little "splashback" must have gotten on some wires, because the bomb went off early, killing only DeVries, who was soon renamed "The Splashin' Assassin". The aftermath of this humiliating death was a sharp decrease in suicide bombings, because no self-respecting bomber wanted to be associated with the mockery handed to DeVries by various news media. Paul informs us that he plans on writing a book about Steve. He then begins his research.

The first stop is with Steve's widow, Louise Lahive, who returned to her native England after her husband's disappearance and subsequent death. After enduring a round of Louise's unsettling personal questions about his goals and masturbatory habits, Paul is allowed to begin an interview of his own. Louise tells him that she had heard Steve had actually spent time in England after his disappearance, and warns Paul that she got a letter from someone else who wanted to write about "The Splashin' Assassin," so he'd best be on the lookout for competition. The letter contains a means for Louise to contact this other writer, Mr. X, but she never does. However, Paul decides it would be in his best interest to meet with this man, and so he does.

At their meeting in a pub, Mr. X wows Paul with his detailed knowledge of Steve's life, and claims to have nearly completed the first draft of his book. Crestfallen, Paul says he might as well give up, since Mr. X is obviously going to beat him to the punch. However, Mr. X tells Paul that his life has been threatened, and that he is nervous about continuing work on the story. He also says that one key witness refuses to meet with him. Because of this, the two decide to work together, splitting the profits and publishing under Paul's name to protect Mr. X from any other threats.

With this knowledge, Paul heads off to visit Roberta Brown, the woman Mr. X was unable to interview. She's a wacky British psychic who now gives "sexy psychic stock tips" over the phone as part of her new job with Corporate Capital Bank. After dealing with her apparent insanity, Paul is finally able to get her to talk about the "stupid Pakis" who often met in the alley beside her building to pray. She mentions their leader, a man known only as The Djin, and the fact that she knows his real name: Nasser Mohammed. Paul takes note of this as well as a few other scraps of information that she provides, then quickly vacates the premises.

Meanwhile, Steve DeVries is happily enjoying fundamentalist Islam heaven -- until Kalif shows up. Kalif, the singing bomber from the start of the show, also finds his way to heaven and is thrilled until he meets Steve. After overcoming the initial confusion of waking after death, Kalif notices a sign posted that reads, "half-assed martyrs heaven." He is enraged, saying that he is no half-assed martyr and that "The Splashin' Assassin" has ruined suicide bombing for everybody. He goes off to take solace in his 72 virgins, though Steve warns him that it's impossible to satisfy 72 women at once, saying that he told his own virgins to get lost.

Back on earth, Paul Milo again contacts the mysterious Mr. X to inform him of the new information he gained from interviewing Ms. Brown. When Mr. X learns that Paul knows the true identity of The Djin, he seems distressed, and leaves shortly after autographing the manuscript that they have shared. Paul reads the autograph -- it's signed Nasser Mohammed! -- and Mr. X promptly blows up the pub, suicide-style.

Having ascended to heaven, The Djin meets up with Steve the Half-Assed Martyr. They greet each other as old friends, for it was the Djin who trained Steve in the arts of suicide bombing. Meanwhile, Kalif returns covered in lipstick prints with his clothes all tattered, saying that his 72 virgins could not be satisfied and turned into "fucking dykes . . . I had to slaughter them like lambs." Kalif is furious with Steve, saying that the lesbian virgins of half-assed martyr's heaven are his fault, but The Djin is less concerned, stating that he will build himself a palace befitting his greatness to prove that he, at least, is not half-assed.

Of course, in order for The Djin to build a palace, he'll need workers and materials, but he has no way of getting them without money. Luckily, he's able to contact psychic banker Roberta Brown, who now heads Corporate Capital Bank's interdimensional banking program! Using his 72 virgins and some gold kitchenware as collateral, he takes out a loan and begins production on his discorporeal dream house. Steve mocks Kalif for slaughtering his collateral like lambs. It turns out that he and The Djin were in cahoots, planning all along to take over heaven with good old American capitalism, and Steve made the "half-assed martyrs heaven" sign in order to inspire palace envy in the other martyrs, forcing them to take out loans to compete with The Djin.

The play ends with a musical Corporate Capital Bank commerical.

Steve DeVries Goes to Fundamentalist Islam Heaven is unique in that it manages to make fun of Muslim terrorists and the American Way, all at the same time! It is true that most of the content can be offensive to almost everyone, but DeVries's work also provides a fresh viewpoint on a sensitive subject, and reminds us all to keep our sense of humor.

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