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Wholly Bible it's not

The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) takes a funny look at the Good Book.

By ROBERT HICKS
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 2, 2003


photo
[Publicity photo]
Angel David M. Jenkins helps bring a comical interpretation of the Bible.

Have you forgotten the stories in the Bible? Or worse yet, neglected to read the word of God at all? There may still be hope.

Beginning Friday, the Good Book gets a new interpretation when Jobsite Theater unveils its production of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

Director Katrina Stevenson leads the cast of Jason Evans, David M. Jenkins and Shawn Paonessa in the play co-written by Adam Long, Reed Martin and John Austin Tichenor of California's Reduced Shakespeare Company. That's the team that created The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), which Jobsite produced at the Shimberg in March 2001.

"It's probably my fault that we're doing it," Stevenson said of the latest production. Several years ago, she directed a production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) as a graduate student at the University of Florida. After moving to Tampa, she joined Jobsite Theater and told the company about that play and similar ones produced by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. "We're just hooked on them now," she said. "They're fun to do and fun for the audience to watch."

The play virtually gallops through the Old and New Testaments as the three actors tackle creation, the epistles and the apostles, as well as the minor and major biblical players.

"It's some of my favorite stuff to do," said Jobsite co-founder Jenkins, whose characters include Adam, Cain, Abraham and Jesus. "It's like a roller coaster. Once a show like this gets started, you just have to grab on for dear life and railroad through the end of it and hope you don't fall off. I love that kind of energy."

The play poses compelling theological questions: If Noah were building an ark today, how many permits would he need? Did Adam and Eve have navels? Did Moses really look like Charlton Heston?

There's plenty of song and dance: In The Beginning Blues explains Genesis. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and the rest of the family tree get a risque rap, Begotten. The Tower of Babel story is rendered in English and in Spanish (sort of). Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Leah and Joseph get a musical routine.

There's local flavor. Among Moses' Top 10 rejected commandments: Thou shalt not find free parking in Ybor City.

The play even offers help for those confused by all those stories about Joshua, Jonah, Gabriel, David, Goliath, Solomon and Elijah in the folk song The Name Game.

"The characters that these guys put on, when they are playing Elijah and Joseph, are very silly," Stevenson said. "But the rest of the time it is them, and it's so real and honest that you can't help but be enthralled by that."

Act Two tackles the New Testament. The three actors portray the Three Wise Men traveling to Christ's birth and explore the relationship of Joseph and Mary. John the Baptist and Salome get a romantic duet, and the end of the world gets a cosmological musical turn, too. Finally, the life of Christ brings the show to a rapid conclusion.

Vaudeville, clowning, sight gags, slapstick, one-liners and physical humor come into play, as well as audience participation. You may get a little wet after the actors discover that they forgot to mention Noah's Ark.

Amid the laughs, there's also room for thought.

"There's one point where the Three Wise Men are talking about the new theological questions that will come about because of the birth of Jesus," Stevenson said. "One of the wise men goes on about the word 'theological.' 'Theo' means belief in God, and 'logical' means based on reason. It's an oxymoron.

"There's a lot of wit in there and moments that will make you think and then turn right around and make you howl with laughter."

* * *

PREVIEW: Jobsite Theater presents The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) from Friday through Jan. 19 at the Shimberg Playhouse in the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa; 10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m. Sun.; $15.50 adults, $12 students; (813) 229-7827, toll-free 1-800-955-1045 or www.tbpac.org. Note: Production contains adult humor and is recommended for mature audiences only.

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