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RTP perks up the local stage scene with "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told"

Absolutely Fabulous


If you want to give a right-wing conservative a heart attack, take him to see "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told," the latest production by the Richmond Triangle Players (RTP). If he doesn't collapse in shock over the outrageously sacrilegious material, the lack of oxygen from laughing so hard will finish him off. Not since Sodom and Gomorra has blasphemy been so much fun. Of course, the irony here is that behind the full-frontal nudity, the occasional barrage of four-letter words, and the biting good humor, this is really a quaint, downright conventional story of love and devotion, both human and divine. The first act retells the early chapters of the Bible from a gay perspective, starting with Adam (R. Neil Palik) finding and fondling Steve (Michael Boyton) in the Garden of Eden. After Adam's inquisitive nature gets them kicked out of Paradise, they come across lesbians Mabel (Eileen McNeil) and Jane (Amy Berlin). In the second act, we find modern versions of these same characters trying to make sense of life in contemporary New York. All along, an omniscient Stage Manager (Laura McFarland-Bukalski) controls the action with benign directness. A simple plot synopsis does not convey the sheer volume of jokes playwright Paul Rudnick heaps into this show. Rudnick's humor can be bitchy, droll and sophomoric (his gay couple explains, "We don't have children, we have taste"), but the near-constant punch lines don't stop him from also slipping in a touch of the sublime (Adam describes falling in love as exploding into "a million tiny pieces of joy"). Some clunky theatrics mar the last scenes in the play, but the good will built up through so much hilarity lets Rudnick coast through these lapses. Director Jay McCullough has assembled a fine cast to act as ciphers for Rudnick's humor. Berlin, as the "bull dyke" Jane, is a particular standout, her captivating birth scene in the second act serving as the show's transcendent climax. Michael Hawke is devastatingly funny as a flouncy Pharoah in the first act and a cynical Santa Claus in the second. Palik and Boynton are engaging as Biblical innocents, but less convincing as a present-day couple struggling with AIDS and existential angst. RTP's stagecraft continues to surprise with an often-inventive scenic design by Ryan Imirie propelling many of the early scenes. The only unfortunate distraction on opening night was the jarring unpredictability of the Fielden Theatre's sound system. Even so, the bracing snap of Rudnick's jokes cut through any static. For an early infusion of holiday cheer, lovers of laughter, both liberal and conservative, should run out and see this show

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