review: job

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Job

by Thomas Bradshaw
Directed by Benjamin H. Kamine

Featuring The Bats
The Flea Theater, 41 White Street
September 19, 2012 (opening) — November 7, 2012
production web site

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
September 16, 2012

Sean McIntyre. Image by Hunter Canning.

Bible stories are to me like any stories from myth and literature. Long ago and far away, people dressed differently and interacted in simple unadorned ways, often directly to deities of various stripes. Sometimes such stories animate a pile of theatre on New York stages at the same time. This past week, I happened to attend Thomas  Bradshaw‘s riff on the story of Job at The Flea Theater the day before I attended at La MaMa an earnest, traditionally proclaimed, be-toga-ed and chorused production of EuripidesHelen of Troy by the Leonidas-Eftychia Loizides Theatre Group. Euripides’ Helen in that production is full of poses, proclamations, invocations to distant gods, pretty costumes, well-enunciated words, and for a modern audience little emotional connection to the action onstage. On the other hand, in a new treatment of ancient material, in the small subterranean Flea Theater Tribeca home, playwright Bradshaw has crafted a riff on patriarch Job’s testing (or victimization, depending upon your point of view) by God and by Satan and the effects on the world around him that takes your breath away. The physical and certain acting, pared writing, and direction that sometimes underscores the pornographic in the myth and Biblically-based text all lead to visceral audience response. However you engage with the source material, this production will incite intense reactions.

A stage full of Bats (the Flea Theater’s young acting company) portray stories in the human and celestial planes.  Brothers God (Ugo Chukwu) and Satan (Stephen Stout), God’s sons Jesus (Grant Harrison) and Dionysus (Eric Folks) joke and fight in the world of deities with believable human intensity, while another family drama incited by the supernatural gamesmanship transpires below.  To test landowner and family man Job’s (Sean McIntyre) faith as a kind of game between God and Satan, Job endures grave misfortunes: he is blinded and castrated by men with vendettas, and his children rape and sodomize each other. Stage blood runs free, and stage actions are graphic. And in the end God rewards him for his tenacious faith by restoring sight and other body parts. The human wreckage around him, however, remains as do questions of human responsibility amidst divine intervention.

Benjamin H. Kamine‘s direction is elegant and efficient, and movement by fight director Michael Weiser and choreographer Joya Powell craft disturbing and beautiful stage pictures. Sound design by Jeremy Bloom is evocative, expansive, and sometimes surprising.

This is not a glossy fairy tale, which underscores the power of the message.  If one believes, the redemptive decisions of God and the other characters in this morality tale should affirm those beliefs. If one reads such stories as myth and fable, the power of this presentation stands on its own.

© Martha Wade Steketee (September 21, 2012)

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