Monday, September 24, 2012


Photo/Hunter Canning
It doesn't feel particularly ambitious or adventurous of Thomas Bradshaw to adapt the biblical story of Job to the stage -- even the title, Job, is straightforward, and there's material excerpted straight from the New International Version of the Bible -- and yet it's certainly within his shock-theater wheelhouse, with each new deprivation graphically brought to life by director Benjamin H. Kamine in the Flea's intimate downstairs theater. If there's a somewhat paint-by-numbers-like approach to the material, which skips between Job's classically themed and God's contemporary, comic scenes, it's at least been painted with vibrant colors, thanks to a committed cast -- in particular a gleefully against-type "Uncle" Satan (Stephen Stout) and soulful Job (Sean McIntyre) -- and some clever staging, which includes not only Michael Wieser's compelling fight choreography but also Joya Powell's tribal dance sequences and Justin Tyme's dirt, bone, and blood makeup and special effects.

There's also an interesting effect in the way Job has been compressed into running a little under an hour while at the same time featuring expansive scenes of violence, as when Job's son Joshua (Jaspal Binning) strangles and then rapes his sister Rachel (Jennifer Tsay). (For an example of Bradshaw's "humor," note that two villagers later comment that this wasn't technically "rape," as Rachel was already dead at the time.) Given the story's use as a scared-straight parable about god's mercy and vengeance, I can tell you that Bradshaw's unyielding physical version seems far more effective than the page's limp warnings.

Still, while Bradshaw interjects a little modern humor and opinion into the proceedings, thanks largely to the conversations between a clearly flawed God (Ugo Chukwu) and his bickering children Jesus (Grant Harrison) and Dionysus (Eric Folks), the majority of the show is dominated by the sight of one man's suffering. Job succeeds, then, on its own merits, but that may be a Pyrrhic victory for downtown audiences looking for a little more depth and insight in their dramas.

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