In Me, My Cult and I, Colin Ebsworth does not limit himself to comedy, theater-storytelling, or even weird culty shit. He masterfully weaves autobiographical threads of evangelicalism, f-ed up parents, and fate into a dynamic story. I left unsettled because a story like Ebsworth’s demands introspection on our own dearly-held beliefs and why we are the way that we are.
The Erskineville PACT Centre for Emerging Artists was a bright and inviting space, painted in colorful geometric patterns. The performance space itself was centered on Ebsworth, his stool, and the sheet behind him. Ironically, his white linen getup made him look like an evangelical youth pastor. I half expected him to bring out a guitar and start singing Oceans. Two Newtowners gave him away.
The opening night drew a lot of cult-fanatics who were keen for transgressive inside knowledge on the group informally known as the Moonies. Colin Ebsworth and his family grew up as members of the Unification Church. His parents were matched for marriage in a mass blessing ceremony of 4000 people in Madison Square Garden, New York. The leader of the Church and supposed third coming of the Messiah, Reverend Sun Moon, believed he could see the souls of ancestors and this special ability primed him to matchmake.
The show roughly follows the story of his family’s life before, during and after the church, but the story is by no means linear. It feels more like a deep-and-meaningful with a chaotic friend. To cram such a complex tale into an hour is a messy task.
Ebsworth’s story is one only he can tell. The show asks a lot of questions that we all ought to ask. What are the chances? How do we understand our parents as fallible people? What happens when you teach people they are ultimately bad? What are our own beliefs that we protect in order to face an uglier truth?
Ebsworth explores the distinct pressures that made his parents susceptible to Reverend Moon’s teachings, and whether it is really their fault. His dynamic storytelling doesn’t give in to that satisfying but transgressive affirmation that we are, in fact, better than the silly people who fall in a cult. In doing so, he demands we interrogate personal integral beliefs that form our identity and communities. His earnest conversation is one that will leave you thinking.