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The Bible: Hilariously Abridged

Courtney Cox | Thursday, September 30, 2010

While Foundations of Theology may have put many a Notre Dame student to sleep, “The Bible: The Complete Word of God Abridged” promises to redeem theology of its dry and oftentimes sleep-inducing tendencies.

Unlike other productions about Christian theology (“Godspell,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat”) “The Bible” widens the scope to include, well, the entire Bible. It does not set out to narrate the Bible in a theatrical way. It instead draws out the most integral parts of salvation history and infuses them with an undeniably modern humor.

Upon entering The Philbin Theater, one notices the stage is set in a rather unusual way. Oriental rugs line the floor while beads and ornate drapes descend from above — not usually what one imagines when they think “The Bible.” There are gaping holes in the décor. Where, for example, are the sand, camels and temples that would have set the stage for Jesus’ birth? Once the cast enters the stage it becomes wonderfully clear. This isn’t a show recreating the Bible. It is instead a loose compilation of the most notable stories as told from the perspective of the energetic and hilarious cast. The scenery suddenly begins to make much more sense. The cast is simply having a conversation with you, not attempting to recreate Israel within the confines of the Philbin.

The relaxed atmosphere that the show creates is by far the most appealing part of the production. The show marks a transition towards emphasis on student-run productions within the Film, Television and Theater (FTT) department and it has been done to perfection. “The Bible: The Complete Word of God Abridged” is a show that all Notre Dame students should want to see. When asked about the major appeal of the show, director Carolyn Demanelis said, “Well, Notre Dame is a Catholic university … so you will get at least one Bible joke.” And there are plenty of jokes at that.

The humor of “The Bible” is decidedly smart and well executed. With plenty of puns and witty analogies there’s enough to keep any audience member laughing. When they are describing “the beginning” a narrators voice proclaims that there was nothing more than sexy chaos as Adam and Eve are entangled in each other. He follows this with, “and then God created parietals — and things got awkward…”

The play was written in 1995 by Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor as part of the Reduced Shakespeare Company but it was updated by the director, cast and crew in order to incorporate some of the more fitting aspects of pop culture. The additions to the script are integrated extremely well with the original text and are in fact some of the funniest parts of the show. From Jersey Shore to Lady Gaga, no cultural iconography was spared when coming up with new material.

Some may be hesitant to see a comedy based entirely around the Bible and may fear that it borders on sacrilege, but rest assured it is not. The play is done in good taste and guards a deserved reverence for the most sacred moments of the Christian tradition. The Last Supper may receive its fair share of jests but the crucifixion and resurrection were portrayed with the gravest respect.

The show proved a successful venture into empowering FTT students with the ability to stage their own productions through the department. The choice of “The Bible: the Complete Word of God Abridged” was made, according to Demanelis because of, “the ability to be put together quickly, on a small budget, and it is a very fluid piece that has room for exploration and play.” Without hesitation the most enjoyable part of the production is the playfulness exemplified by each cast member individually. This unabridged tale of salvation combines pop culture and ancient theology for on of the most wildly entertaining FTT productions yet.