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All 'Told,' flesh reigns over spirit at Spotlighters

06/06/01 By Mike Giuliano

If you're familiar with playwright Paul Rudnick, it won't exactly come as news that his play "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told" at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre is a wacky comedy. This is the guy who wrote plays like "I Hate Hamlet" and "Jeffrey," after all. He touches on serious issues, but always in a silly way.

The scenario is downright goofy, putting a gay twist on the Biblical account of Genesis via a couple named Adam (Oscar Ceville) and Steve (David C. Allen), whom we meet pondering the big questions in the Garden of Eden. They're soon joined by a lesbian couple, Jane (Laura K. Cosner) and Mabel (Katherine Jaeger).

It's certainly not the Bible as a fundamentalist would recognize it. But Rudnick has fun with some alternative explorations for humanity's creation and our perpetual curiosity as to whether there is a God who set all this in motion.

The play doesn't shy away from human nudity in the early scenes. Eventually, the principals are joined by supporting players _ Edward Zarkowski, Anthony Viglione, Michelle Pinkham and Cathy L. Shipley _ performing multiple roles ranging from a rabbi to a pharaoh.

Equally expansive is the geographical and temporal terrain: The second act takes place on Christmas Eve in a contemporary Manhattan apartment.

If you find yourself wondering whether there is a God who created such a world and, moreover, still cares how humans are faring in modern Manhattan, the play teasingly raises that question all evening long. Even if God remains offstage, there is a Stage Manager character (Vicki Margolis) who sets the play in motion by intoning, "Creation of the world, go."

There is plenty of funny material here and the actors go to town (in this case New York) with it. But Rudnick's play is done in by its superficial, sketchlike comedy, which gets an easy laugh but doesn't probe very deeply, and by its loosely constructed story, which meanders even beyond what you might expect under the casual circumstances.

It's not director Terry J. Long's fault, either, that the play is overly long at 2 hours, 40 minutes; this "Fabulous Story" doesn't know when to quit.

It's a hoot seeing how Adam and Steve escape the Flood by living a rather unconventional life on the Ark, and it's just as amusing to see how other well-known Biblical tales get a rude twist here. But it's not so funny when scene after scene plays off the same few basic situations. You'll end up wishing this potentially fabulous campy treatment of religious material were more tightly told.

"The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told" runs through June 30 at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre (Baltimore, 410-752-1225). This play contains nudity and adult language. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 general, $10 for senior citizens and students.