SALVATION CORPORATION, CSquared Productions, at Torso Theatre. The chief distinction between a comic monologue and a stand-up routine is not length of text or coarseness of humor but the progress of a narrative. Chris Penny's background as a stand-up comedian means that he treads water a bit in this speculative account of Lucifer's fall, related by an archangel with a morale problem. But just when we think Penny's run out of variations on his theme, his protagonist finds unexpected spiritual rejuvenation in a pagan-New Age ideology sound enough to send us out the door satisfied intellectually as well as emotionally.
Before we get there, however, Penny takes us through an abundance of satirical observations on the distortions of conventional theology and the state of modern American business and marketing, recounted in a vaguely New Jersey accent that does not preclude flashes of poetry ("You've gotta know when to beg, when to bully, when to bullshit, and when to be quiet"). Penny's extended metaphor sometimes grows labored, his caustic criticisms border on outright blasphemy at times, and his language throughout is saltier than the Dead Sea Scrolls. Heaven has many doors, however, and with a little tightening, Penny's hard-nosed promise of redemption should become a nicely acidic alternative to the cuddly, long-running Late Nite Catechism, only a few blocks away. --Mary Shen Barnidge