by Hugh Hunter
Three guys sure run around a lot at Allens Lane Theater. But if you are going to stage “The Bible: The Complete Word of God, (Abridged)” in less than two hours, I guess you need to step on the gas.
To authors Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, nothing is beyond spoof. They have written 10 “Complete Works” spoofs, beginning with “The Complete Works of Shakespeare, (Abridged)” in 1987. They formed their own troupe, the Reduced Shakespeare Company (RSC) and routinely tour the USA and the world.
In “The Bible,” Allens Lane actors begin at the Garden of Eden, fig leaves and all. Racing around, they cover Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, The Tower of Babel and more. In the sacrifice of Isaac, you hear the booming off-stage voice of God who knights Abraham, dubbing him “Sir Cumcision.” When Abraham asks why, God explains he needs to make a wallet.
I think you get the picture. Jogging circular routes behind the rear stage wall, these guys log more miles than Mick Jagger in concert, change clothes in a flash and don wigs for women characters. Angel James plays “Punk Rock School Girl,” cruising the stage with explanatory posters and handing out Adam’s genealogy chart to the audience.
Ringleader Kyle Paul Dandridge stands between his chums to emcee the mayhem. Jared Taylor, (a 17-year-old senior at Central High School), is his right-hand man. (All night Jared flirts with “Bill” in the audience, explaining he will be 18 in another month (just wait). Dan Shefer joins in all skits but has an insistent Noah’s Ark complex.
Even when New Testament stories take over in the second act, Shefer clings to his Lego, Noah’s Ark amulet. Dandridge finally gives up and stages an Ark rescue, enlisting audience members on to the stage to pair up as animals to the tune of “Old McDonald’s Farm.” Those of us left behind get to wave our arms as drowning sinners.
Director Mariangela Saavedra keeps a perky pace. Inspired by risqué authors, the actors delight in taking you by surprise. In a show already full of puns, they mix in topical comments and confuse bible stories with holiday customs to knock you further off stride.
But the devout among us need not feel alarm: the show is too over the top to be blasphemous. Various commentators describe “Complete Works” theater as vaudevillian. That describes a style of presentation but does not capture the full flavor of these shows. (I have seen three.)
They are more like a cabaret act, or still better, more in the spirit of the sporadically banned “Feast of Fools” in medieval times, where everything was subject to ridicule for one day. (Then you minded your manners for the next 364 if you knew what was good for you.)
Allens Lane Theater is located at 601 W. Allens Ln. “The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged)” will run through May 19. Information at allenslane.org 215-248-0546.