Review: GARDEN, An Original Love Story

Taking a break from what had been a 60+ hour work week, I headed south to my second favorite city in the world, New Orleans, LA, for some much needed entertainment and inspiration. Little did I know that sitting down to enjoy an original musical production from my friends at Dumb Ox Ministries would rock my world (literally) and move my heart so deeply. Inspired by the writings of St. John Paul II, GARDEN: An Original Love Story is an original full-stage musical play that ran from Thursday, March 16 through Sunday, March 19, at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, LA. Produced by Brian Butler, co-founder of Dumb Ox Ministries, written and directed by seminarian Joey Martineck, with music from Greg+Lizzy Boudreaux and Shawn Williams, GARDEN  tells the story of the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man.

With clever dialogue, an energetic cast, and music that is as delightful as it is stirring, GARDEN  inspires its audiences to give Genesis 1-3 another look. An invitation to reconsider and reject the lies that your own past and brokenness have whispered to you over the years. A battle cry of FREEDOM! and a beacon of light in a darkened world.

The play begins with Seth asking Eve about what actually happened in the Garden of Eden. Cut to a variety of creatively costumed animals [costuming credit The Catholic Outpost’s very own Sarah Denny] witnessing the naming all of creation by Adam. Adam decides to name a Rose a Rose, and it seems that by any other name it would not be as sweet. His desire for connection to another being like himself leads to the creation of Eve. The audience is then treated to a meditation on the Creator’s individual relationship with Eve, a point I would argue that is not often considered. Note: The Creator in GARDEN  goes by the name Bridegroom (do you see where this is going??). Eve also expresses her desire for someone like herself in a hilarious (and all too true) song “All the Men I Know are Pigs”… because literally they are… pigs.

As Act One progresses, Adam and Eve meet, marry, and live happily ever after…wait…no. If you’ve read the Book you know there is trouble quite literally in paradise. Suffering from seeds of doubt planted by the Serpent and Red (the personified apple), Eve and Adam both disregard the Bridegroom’s one rule. #youhadonejob. As the scenes unfold we learn that it is Eve’s fear of no longer being the Crown of Creation, the newest and most beautiful of all the creatures in the Garden–the fear of being forgotten, overlooked, ignored, passed over… that leads to her deadly choice. On the other hand, it is Adam’s fear of being alone… of aching for more despite having it all, that leads him to fall.

Act Two picks up with the aftermath of the Fall, the desire for redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation. I wish I could write more about the level of depth, beauty, and goodness that is unveiled in this final Act, but in truth, I’m still processing it myself. The complexity of this play not only sheds light on the stormy relationship between the First Man and First Woman, but men and women in general, individuals and God, God and the Serpent, and most profoundly oneself and one’s self-doubt.

My GARDEN  Testimony

As an audience member I can tell you that we laughed, we cried… we ugly cried… (you know those sobs that you try to swallow to save yourself a little embarrassment). True beauty. True wonder. True TRUTH. I was in awe that I have such talented friends. I was in awe that the beauty of Saint John Paul II’s teaching could inspire such artistic expression. I was in awe contemplating how Saint John Paul II, an actor, playwright, and artist himself, must have been so pleased with this gift of a musical production. I was in awe that a little play I almost skipped could so profoundly remind me of the Father’s love for me.

I watched, broken-hearted for the world that is so full of sin and so desperate for authentic love. I cried for my loved ones that do not know love. I cried for my own sins, the seeds of doubt that I have allowed myself to swallow, the relationships I have ruptured with my own selfishness. I cried for the promise of the Kingdom, the simplicity of God, the complexity of my own heart, and the beauty of this Catholic faith.

I cannot recommend this play highly enough. Let’s pray to the Bridegroom and through the special intercession of St. John Paul II that it will continue on to bless future audiences for years to come!

Favorite lines [emphasis my own]:

SERPENT: If there really is some divine mystery between them [Man & Woman] then I will destroy it.
BRIDEGROOM: You can’t destroy it.
SERPENT: Then I will twist it! I swear to you Bridegroom, some day they won’t even know there’s a difference between man and woman.
BRIDEGROOM: Then I will show them what it means to be man!
[Spoiler alert: it’s Jesus]

Posted by Katie Austin

Katie Austin has been involved in leadership training, facilitation, and ministry since 1997. Originally from Lafayette, LA, Katie graduated from Tulane University in Marketing and Business Law. She earned her Juris Doctor/Bachelor of Civil Law degree from LSU Law Center and completed her M.A. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Dogmatic Theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. After law school, Katie was the Assistant Director of Religious Education for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. A former adjunct professor at Notre Dame Seminary and coordinator of the Aquinas Institute, Katie has devoted herself to making intellectual formation readily available to lay Catholics who are hungry to encounter truth. She is currently working towards an M.S. is Psychology from Divine Mercy University.? Katie now serves as the Campus Minister and Director of Programming at Our Lady of Wisdom Church and Catholic Student Center on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette—home of the Ragin’ Cajun Catholics!