On stage, the kids are alright

Yes, “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” (through Aug. 16 at Theatre on the Square) has a cast of children. Yes, it is only about an hour long. Yes, it is a semi-musical with sets that seem made out of cardboard and costumes that are mostly purple jumpsuits.

And, yes, it is one of the funniest, strangest, most joyful and creepiest productions that I’ve ever seen in Indianapolis.

The show takes so many risks that it makes theater productions that pride themselves on being experimental seem like pikers. In a world where it’s become increasingly difficult to surprise and shock, the fauxinnocent “Scientology Pageant,” has a seemingly endless parade of jaw-dropping moments.

I was ready to applaud TOTS just for having the guts to stage it. Now having seen it, though, I also have to applaud the company for what it does with the already out-there material.

The show recounts the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard as if it were being performed by kids (who hilariously fight over who gets the plum role). The show has the tech credits of an elementary school nativity play and, as an audience member, you experience the same “I hope they remember their lines” tension that parents go through when their kid is in a school multi-purpose room playing a shepherd. The only thing is, here the kids are telling us about e-meters, auditors and Prince Xenu and his volcanoes (Are these unfamiliar? Then consider this show educational as well.)