Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told Isn't Quite Fabulous, But It's Fun

Also see Richard's review of Contact

It is strange that it has taken Paul Rudnick's camp comedy two and half years to reach the Pacific Coast after its opening at the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York in 1999. However, if anyone was going to do it out here, the producers found the right group. The New Conservatory Theatre company is one of the best on the West Coast, consistently sharp in all their productions. This one is no exception.

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told is almost like watching two one-act plays with a thin connecting line. Act one recounts some of the major episodes of the Old Testament from a gay point of view. The production opens with a stage manager with headset, prompt book at hand. She brings the house lights to half, then dark, and cues the creation of the world.

In the Bible God created Adam and Eve, but here it is Adam and Steve. Of course the first words that Adam says are, "This garden is fabulous. However, I would put the lake over there." The pair are joined by a lesbian couple named Jane and Mable who have come from another part of the garden. The four decide to start a civilization, a very provocative notion due to the sexual preferences of the two couples. The scenes whiz by, maybe a little too fast, going quickly from the expulsion from Eden, through the great flood and into slavery in Egypt in MTV time.

The Egyptian scene is the best scene in the first act with a wonderfully rambunctious Pharaoh with so much eye shadow on, I thought it was Elizabeth Taylor. Talk about over the top camping, this was "fabulous" acting on the part of Patrick Michael Dukeman.

Act Two takes place in modern Manhattan on Christmas Eve in the apartment of Adam and Steve. Steve is dying of AIDS. Again, he cannot believe there is a God. Jane and Mable are planning their wedding and expecting a child from Adam's sperm. Jane, played by Jana Barber, is hilarious in the role of the pregnant woman. It looks as if she's carrying a 40 pound fetus and she looks like the truck driver who was kicked off Survivor One. The wedding is to be performed by a wheelchair bound Jewish lesbian Rabbi from cable-access TV; Lisa Mallette is splendid in the role with a terrific voice to match. One of the highlights of the act was her soliloquy about loving God, loving life and always looking on the bright side.

The performances were top notch. However, Joey Rich as Adam and Zach Hummell as Steve, had a difficult time at the beginning of the play getting the characters together. Once they got into their roles they carried it off with style and affection. Patrick Michael Dukeman is a riot as the Pharaoh in the first act and plays a wonderfully cranky gay Santa in the second. He has the best sarcastic one-liners. Jane Barber is abrasively raw as Jane and Maria Biber-Ferro is pure and sweet. The rest of the cast includes Natalie Adona as the naive Mormon from Utah in the second act, John Dravinski as the marvelous rhino on the ark and Shannon Veon Kase as the stage manager. All give excellent performances.

George Maguire has been acting and directing plays in the Bay area for 30 years and has won many awards for his direction . He made his NCTC debut with this production and addressed it with style and a wonderful pace, particularly in the second act. His pacing at the beginning of the first act was a little too fast, making it hard to understand what time period we were in. However, his direction really caught fire in the Egyptian scenes.

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told runs through July 14, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 PM with Matinees on Sundays at 2 PM. Tickets range from $15 to 25 and are available from the New Conservatory Theatre Box Office at 415-861-8972. This marks the last play of the current Pride 6 season. The next Pride 7 season opens on October 17 with Steve Schalchlin and Jim Brochu's The Last Session.

Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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