Author: Matt Barbot
Description: After being tricked into taking part in the infamous trial of a dead pope, 18-year-old actor Carlo enlists the help of his favorite saint to perform the story of his life for his prison guards…all as part of a plan to find a happy ending.
First Produced: 2013
Date Added: 9/27/2013
Content Advisory: Some strong language
Keywords: Comedy · Drama · Coming of Age · Historical · Folklore and Legends · Mythology · Meta · Religion and Spirituality · Death and the Afterlife · Nuns and Priests · Single Set · The Theatre · Politics · True Stories · Brechtian · Mostly Male Characters · Small Cast Size
1 Act, 90 Minutes
0 Females, 2 Males
NOTE: Infallibility is fully protected by copyright law and is subject to royalty. All inquiries concerning production, publication, reprinting or use of this play in any form should be addressed to Rochelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original Production Information
Infallibility was presented at the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival with the following cast and credits:
Carlo: Rory Keane
Genesius: Cody Magouirk
Director: Kelly Johnston
Props design: Andrew Diaz
Assistant Director: Emma Arlauskas
Stage Manager: Alex James
Review by Jason Jacobs
Did you hear the one about the dead Pope who was exhumed and put on trial by his successor? No, that’s not a joke set-up. I myself had never heard of the Cadaver Synod of 897, but to be honest, my knowledge of papacy scandals circa 9th-century is sketchy at best.
Providentially, after seeing Matthew Barbot’s clever and whimsical Infallibility, I can now speak with (some) authority on this incident. And, thanks to the comedic strengths of this production, I had great fun learning about it.
In commedia style, the two-person romp explores Pope Stephen VII’s prosecution and posthumous nullification of the papacy of his predecessor, Pope Formosus. First, a prologue introduces Genesius, the patron saint of actors, clowns, and lawyers (!), played with madcap gusto by Cody Magouirk. Next, we meet Carlo, a hapless actor played as a sad but sweet clown by Rory Keane. Imprisoned in Rome and sentenced to die because of his involvement in the trial, Carlo invokes Genesius to help him re-enact the events leading to his fate. Genesius provides a trunk filled with masks and props, and meta-theatrically organizes Carlo’s tale into a traditional albeit accelerated, 5-act play. Act One opens on the not-so-talented Carlo playing small parts in the provinces and praying for his big break, when presto: enter a sinister Roman Bishop (played by Genesius), offering Carlo a major gig in Rome. Carlo meets the rabid Pope Stephen (Genesius again) who hires him to play the voice of Formosus and share the stage with the deceased Pope’s corpse in the upcoming trial. Despite misgivings, Carlo’s fatal flaw—his ambition—drives him to accept the role. With Genesius’s unfailing collaboration, our hero goes through three more acts of rising action (conflict/complication/crisis) before arriving at his moment of truth and facing death
Jumping off from this bizarre chapter of history, Barbot juggles Catholic dogma, dramatic theory, and comic shtick with dexterity. He is well served by the terrific chemistry of his performing duo. With mercurial physicality and astute mask work, Magouirk revels as a merry prankster—the perfect foil to Keane’s baby-faced, ever sympathetic sad sack. From go, you sense these actors are in command and ready to show us a good time. Director Kelly Johnston keeps the laughs coming and the action moving, creating a rich commedia del’arte world on an empty stage, with the help of Andrew Diaz’s perfectly designed props.
At the end of a hilarious hour, I appreciated learning about the Cadaver Synod and inferred that Barbot may want us to contemplate whether we can ever know if there is a divine plan driving our lives. Genesius constantly reminds Carlo that “God has an unknowable plan for us,” and Barbot’s dramaturgy hints at an invisible master-plot, in which every person and event has a larger purpose. I can’t know if this play will be any less ephemeral than its ill-fated hero, but I am certain that while it lives, it is a pleasure to enjoy.
reviewed at the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival
In Loyola Press (2013)
For his first play, 26-year-old Matthew Barbot decided to dig up a bizarre bit of 1,000-year-old Church history: the Cadaver Synod. Read the review.
Review by Deborah Wingert in Eye on the Arts (2013)
The New York International Fringe Festival presented Infallibility, a thought provoking yet humorous play about the infamous 9th century Cadaver Synod. Read the review.
Excerpt from Infallibility
Can they see you?
(to an unseen Guard)
Hello. Have we met? We’ve met, I think.
Are you related to a man named Plautia?
This is St. Genesius. He’s the Patron Saint of Actors.
That last one’s going to be important, here.
Prove to them you’re a saint.
Other saints do magic tricks and bleed a lot. I can only impress you with my tremendous acting skill and various feats of stagecraft. Though I think maybe if I untied this scarf my head might fall off. You’ll pardon me if I’d rather not try it.
Don’t leave. We’ll be right back.
(Carlo drags Genesius upstage. They are hushed.)
Huge. Enormous. Momentous.
Is this a play?
No. You were right. It’s not working.
Well your play was rather short. I told you, your plays are all short – a few lines then Alleluia alleluia alleluia alleluia… I don’t know when that happened. They won’t always be so short. In my day they weren’t so short. Five acts, we’d need. Greeks, Romans…always five acts. It’d take all day, and there’d be wine, and women, and…
So we don’t do a play.
Oh, no, I think we should do a play.
Are you listening? I just said it’s not working. I did the Quem Queritis, which was my best. You said it wouldn’t work. It didn’t. You win. Now what?
There’s always stories for telling.
And the guards seem attentive. They’ll make a lovely audience.
(to the unseen Guards.)
A very handsome audience!
Please. After all this time. I just want you to tell me what to do.
Do what you can, while you can, until you can’t anymore.
You said I’d know. You said I’d know if this was right. So is this it? No, I know, you can’t answer. I don’t think I’ve ever been certain about anything in my entire life. I’ve thought I was certain, but it never turned out right, so that can’t really be certainty.
Is this the plan? God’s plan?
It might not be.
But then again it might be.
I hate you.
That’s not true.