The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told
by Jack Sugrue
If there's a funnier playwright working on or
off-Broadway than Paul Rudnick, I can't imagine who it
might be. In his previous outings, such as Jeffrey and
I Hate Hamlet, Mr. Rudnick has proven to be a master of
"conversational comedy". Unlike other, more mainstream
comedy playwrights, such as Neil Simon, there's little
"schtick" to Mr. Rudnick's characters. They tend to say
the kinds of witty, urbane and scathingly wicked things
that we all realize we should have said two days after
our own conversations.
Whenever a contemporary author tackles a "historical"
subject, there are bound to be some ripples in the pond.
And if an author known for "gay-themed" pieces decides to
turn his sites on the Bible, those ripples often turn
into tidal waves. One has only to think back to the
controversy over Terrance McNally's Corpus Christi to
realize that the "religious right" stills holds some sway
over the creative arts.
Surprisingly, little of this controversy spilled over
onto The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told although,
God knows, it's not the kind of play that Catholic high schools
will be producing in the coming years (unless RuPaul is elected
Pope). Full frontal male nudity, large-breasted topless
women giving birth in an avalanche of profanity, the
birth of Christ interrupted by a cellular call; all this
and more would seem to invite a picket-line of Baptists,
nuns and North Carolina republicans. Instead, Mr.
Rudnick's charming, disarming and utterly hysterical
retelling of the story of Creation has aroused only mild
concern, although at the end of the first act, several
people sitting behind me commented that the entire
audience, weak with laughter, was no doubt going to Hell.
The Most Fabulous Story opens with the creation of
Heaven and Earth, directed not by a Divine Power but
rather by a monotone stage manager, mechanically cueing
the dawn of time like most of us order waffles at IHOP.
Into this New World bounds Adam - enthusiastic, wide-eyed
and queer. Luckily, he meets Steve. Together they
discover the pleasures of conversation, of touching, of
kissing, yada, yada, yada. But Adam is curious about other
things, too. And when he reaches out to what lies beyond
the Garden, he and Steve find themselves cast out.
Unfortunately, Adam's actions also cause the eviction of
Jane and Mabel, the lesbian couple from the other side of
For the rest of the First Act, these four characters
hopscotch through the Old Testament, meeting up with Noah
and the Ark (which features a leather bar tended by a
horny rhino), Moses, a very queenie Pharaoh and,
ultimately, straight people. Throughout this time, each
character is searching for something to believe in:
sometimes God, sometimes religion, and sometimes one
Act Two unfolds in the Present: on Christmas Eve in the
apartment of Adam and Steve as they await the arrival of
Mable and Jane for a holiday party. Having traversed the
centuries, now these two couples must deal with the
issues of faith in today's world. Each is dealing with
crises that they share and that they keep private. Each
needs the other, and still grasps for a higher power to
help them through.
While this might sound quite dour, it is Mr. Rudnick's
gift to buoy the production with humor, joy and energy.
And he is more than aided by an astoundingly talented
cast. Alan Tudyk tackles the role of Adam with a boy-like
wonder at everything new and a childlike fear of what he
has unleashed. We see the new world through his eyes, and
he makes the journey enchanting. Likewise, Jay Goede, in
the less rewarding role of Steve, has less naiveté to
play from and more issues to confront. He does so without
alienating the audience - no small feat. (And the bodies
on these guys during the nude scene...yikes!) As Jane, the
aggressive partner of Mabel, Becky Ann Baker gives a
forceful, hysterically compelling performance. Her
tour-de-force comes during the Second Act in a semi-nude
monologue (trust me, you'll know it when you see it). And
Kathryn Meisle, as the sweet, angelic Mabel, is well,
sweet and angelic.
The "supporting" cast, doing extra duty by playing a
variety of characters throughout the performance, is
wonderful. Special attention needs to be paid the
marvelously droll Peter Bartlett, whose turns as the
"swishy" Pharaoh and, in the Second Act, Trey Pomfret,
are absolute gold. Mr. Bartlett has comic timing to die
for, and wrings every laugh out of his very funny roles.
Truth to tell, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told isn't
for everyone. Almost any comedy with religious overtones
is bound to step on somebody's toes. However, should you
want sparkling wit and feel safe in assuming that even
the Creator can laugh at his Creations when they are
presented in this charming a fashion, then I suggest you
get to the Minetta Lane Theatre as quickly as possible.
Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane. Tuesday through Friday at 8 P.M.,
Saturdays at 7 and 10 P.M., Sundays at 3 and 7 P.M. Tickets $35 - $47.50.
Tidbits: Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 opens this Thursday as part
of the Encore series at City Center. In 1936 the musical starred Bob Hope, Eve
Arden, Fanny Brice and Josephine Baker and while most garnered good reviews Baker
was singled out by Brooks Atkinson: "Her singing is only a squeak in the dark
and her dancing is only the pain of an artist." The present cast stars Christine
Ebersole, Ruthie Henshall, Howard McGillan, Stephanie Pope, Mary Testa, Peter
Scolari and Karen Ziemba among others. 6 performances only of this Ira Gerswhin
tuner which is 1 more than the original 1936 run.
Malachy McCourt joins the cast of A Couple of Blaguards up at the
Triad Theatre on W. 72nd Street. He and brother Frank (Angela's Ashes) wrote this
Andrew Lloyd Webber turns 51 on Monday, the same day the Variety Ad appears
for the Michael Crawford Phantom Movie Campaign. Now, there's a birthday greeting!
Last chance to catch Titanic at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The 5 time Tony Winning
musical closes after 9 more performances before it sets sail to ports of call in Seattle, Chicago,
Boston and 46 other cities through the fall of 2000. There will be international
productions in Japan, Holland, England, Germany and Australia. Sail on Titanic!
The Oliver Award winning Best Play, The Weir, previews this Tuesday at the
Walter Kerr Theatre. "Sheer Theatrical Magic" says the London Daily Telegraph.
You're A Good Man Charlie Brown plays 3 performances on Saturdays with the
first performance at 11 AM, then again at 3:30 PM and finally at 8 PM. It's at
the Ambassador Theatre. Dark, Mondays and Tuesdays. $20.00 student rush tix
available at Box Office.
Did I hear right? Baayork Lee, an original castmember from 1975's A Chorus
Line, and long associated with directing road companies since, is thinking about
bringing the musical back to Broadway?
Join us in our newest section on Talkin' Broadway - CABARET
where we chat with MAC Award nominee Tom Andersen. You'll also be able to hear in Real
Audio Tom's amazing version of "Storybook" from The Scarlet Pimpernel. MAC Awards
are April 5th.
See you Thursday!