Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told"

by Paul Rudnick
Directed by Scott Edmiston
Choreography by Judith Chaffee

Set Design by Susan Zeeman Rogers
Costume Design by Tom Siderberg
Props Master Sharon Grazioso
Lighting Design by Karen Perlow
Production Stage Manager Alyson Young

Amy Rhodes...................................... Stage Manager
Henry David Clarke.......................................... Adam
Chris Aruda...................................................... Steve
Sandra Heffley.....................................................Jane
Helen McElwain.............................................. Mabel
Michael Baron................................................Brad +
Father Joseph/Bugs, Rhino/Dad #2/Kevin Markham
Michelle Dowd..................................Rabbi Sharon +
Miriam Miller/Babe/Mom #1/Ftatateeta
Richard Carey....................................Trey Pomfret +
Shreve Pomfret/Peter/Dad #1/Pharoah
Traci Crouch..................................Cheryl Mindale +
Fluffy/Mom #2/Peggy

First of all, it's funny as hell. Paul Rudnick piles on jokes, shtick, one-liners, throw-aways, quips, asides satires and rim-shots until "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told" builds the irresistible rhythm of a stand-up on a roll. Though it starts with a re-telling of Genesis (Adam and Steve) that gets so specific as to be a gay how-to sexbook, the advent of Jane and Mabel starts a giggly juggernaut that never stops. Even though the second half is a single contemporary Christmas Eve the with-it wit never flags, yet Director Scott Edmiston sees to it that rather than a just a goofy gay romp Rudnick's play has a serious sting in its tale.

Second, this show is delightfully theatrical. Amy Rhodes begins it by walking across the stage with her head-set on, picking up the script and, sitting at a stage-manager's cluttered desk stage-left, calling the show. (A little too loudly, actually; Ben Arons's fine Sound Design is rock-concert loud in an intimate house.) Every lights-change, set-change, scene-change is announced. The crew appears, unobtrusively and expertly professional, to add or strike Susan Zeeman Rogers' quickly stylized pieces and Sharon Grazioso's excellent props. Karen Perlow's lights create a shimmering flood, lots of God's lightning, and dawn and sunset of the first day --- ever. Tom Siderberg's costumes are gay-gaudy cartoons, and the tableau recreating Christ's birth for the end of the first half is eerily, hilariously accurate.

All four of Paul Rudnick's major characters maintain their attitudes to life through life, but life changes throughout a story as episodic as the Bible itself. Henry David Clarke's Adam is a seeker, willing even to accept a Bible from a preacher popping up from the audience, and hoping if not quite believing there is a God. And of course Chris Aruda's Steve is the questioner, calling himself a realist and Adam a dreamer.

Sandra Heffley's Jane is a bull-dyke, with the build of a line-backer and the attitude of an attack-dog. (Consider a pregnant bull-dyke's interior monolog while giving birth!) And so of course Helen McElwain's Mabel is all New-Age acceptance -- even, eventually, of her destructively violent feelings. It's Mabel who actually gets in touch with God --- and let's face it, the God thing is a big deal here for this quartet who know they were created as exactly what they are but apparently by an ambivalent Deity Who left Steve out of the book. (Upon hearing how babies must be made, the gays all reject it as just too Icky for words!)

The remaining twenty named characters are played by four very busy actors. Michael Baron, for instance, plays a rhinoceros who, well, seduces Adam on the Ark; Richard Carey becomes Pharoah (who knows HE is God) with Michelle Dowd and Traci Crouch as his minions Ftatateeta and Peggy. And there are Lots more.

For part two everyone has a single character at the Xmas Eve party turning into a double-ring gay marriage with Steve reluctantly accepting the word God into the ceremony. Here Carey and Baron are gay friends; Dowd is Rabbi Sharon, a Black lesbian paraplegic Rabbi; while Crouch becomes an ecumenically open Mormon ("But, if I attend a gay/lesbian marriage ceremony, won't I go to Hell?")

The wrestling with questions like fidelity, commitment, purpose, persecution, and oh yes God is not all quips and send-ups. The means is often bombast, but the aim, eventually, is acceptance. Most, but not all the tears are from uncontrollable laughter. As I said, a goofy gay romp with a serious sting in its tale.

Love,
===Anon.


"The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told" (till 24 June)
SPEAKEASY STAGE COMPANY
@ Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON
1(617) 437-7172

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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