In the beginning, Brent Tubbs directed a play. And the production was without form and void; darkness was upon the face of the show. And the spirit of Brent moved upon the three-person cast. And Brent said, “Let there be humor,” and there was laughter. And Brent heard the giggles, and it was good. And Brent said, “Behold, I have provided everything necessary for entertainment.” And he knew that it was heavenly … even though yours truly, on Saturday, missed out on several probably heavenly scenes.
More on that later. But thank the Almighty that Tubbs (himself a Reader theatre reviewer) was tapped to direct the QC Theatre Workshop’s The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), because only St. Peter knows how this production would have turned out in a lesser director's hands. Tubbs, along with fellow cast members James Fairchild and Jeremy Mahr, performed bits from (nearly) every book of the Bible in 90 minutes, and from the opening command of “Let there be light” to the closing musical version of the Book of Revelation, these three comedians never stopped moving, singing, dancing, or laughing with their over-the-top, audience-interactive approach.
Fairchild played roles ranging from Abraham to the Easter Bunny, and his timing, beautiful singing voice, and childlike characterizations were wonderful throughout the performance. Being a big man, Fairchild sweated nearly literal buckets to keep his chapters of the show highly energetic and outlandish.
ComedySportz veteran Mahr was the most biblical-looking of the cast, sporting a full, dark beard that complemented his large stature. He strummed his guitar several times (including at the show's start with his soulful “In the Beginning Blues”), and clearly having honed his facial expressions through years of practice, demonstrated the ability to say a great deal with just the squint of an eye or pucker of his lips. Mahr was perfect for The Bible's performance type, easily and simultaneously interacting with castmates and audience members alike.
In addition to directing, Tubbs had his hands full keeping pace with Mahr and Fairchild, and my favorite Tubbs character was his portrayal of Pontius Pilate as a WWI pilot. On Saturday, Tubbs stopped the show for three to four minutes while he mimed shooting down airplanes – mugging to the audience the whole time, and milking every second he could.
The Bible (written by Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor) was presented, in this production, in a black-box-ish setting with no theatrical set per se. However, it was noted in the pre-show announcements that there were over 200 props gathered for the show, and Lis Athas and Tyson Danner deserve kudos for organizing such a large stockpile for the actors. As lighting designer, Danner also made the most out of his multiple light cues without overloading the stage, helping to focus the constant and frenetic action.
But while, as a reviewer, it is anticipated, and customary, that you stay through an entire performance, I was unfortunately called away for an emergency at my office on the night I attended. Fortunately, though, my 21-year-old son Ben was with me, and agreed to take notes during my absence. And having left before Act II began, I returned about halfway through the act to find Ben laughing out loud and having written several pages of positive notes on the scenes I’d missed. One of his favorite parts was the Last Supper sequence, in which Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting was projected onto flats that had the faces cut out for each apostle; Tubbs and Fairchild spent the scene filling in those faces to re-create conversations between the apostles and Jesus. Ben also loved it when Jesus multiplied bread and fish to feed the masses by throwing the food into the audience, and especially enjoyed the Three Kings debating zodiac signs and comparing presents that each had acquired for baby Jesus.
For the more fundamentally minded among you, this particular version of the Good Book might be cause for worry. (If so, I'd advise bringing your minister.) Rest assured, however, that the cast works hard to take a tongue-in-cheek approach without offending the audience – an approach most clearly illustrated in their respectful handling of the crucifixion – and makes The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) a nearly religious experience that every Quad-Cities-theatre- and comedy-lover should see. If you do see it, I'm sure you'll join me in looking to the heavens, raising your hands, and shouting a joyful, “Amen!”
The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) runs at the QC Theatre Workshop (1730 Wilkes Avenue, Davenport) through May 1, and more information and tickets are available by calling (563)650-2396 or visiting QCTheatreWorkshop.org.