Wednesday, April 14, 2010

bigger than jesus

i was back out at the halifax airport this morning for the first time since christmas at the airport. it felt like coming home, though it was pleasant to only be there 20 minutes. i was picking up 3 writers who flew in from newfoundland for the atlantic book awards tonight.

the fates conspired to bring two of the three Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing contenders into my yaris: Raoul R. Anderson and John K. Crellin, who wrote/edited Mi'sel Joe: An Aboriginal Chief's Journey, and Mike Heffernan, Rig: An Oral History of the Ocean Ranger Disaster. we had a great chat on the way in about turning oral history into books.

raoul and john are speaking at king's tomorrow night - well worth checking out.

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the last play of the season at neptune's studio theatre is also the best: rick miller's bigger than jesus. this is the funniest, smartest plays i've seen in a long time. he starts the play by announcing that he's jesus, and he'll be your host for the evening. if you like that pun, you'll love this play. my review for the weekly news is below:

Jesus Christ, Superstore

I never gave much thought to the Forever 27 Club, but the 33 Jesus Club has, er, crossed my mind. Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones and Jim Morrison all died at age 27. Jesus hung around until age 33. I turned 33 in February and it led me to reflect on what we’d both done with our lives to that point.

I wouldn’t recommend doing it. Even for an atheist, it’s hard to measure up. The thought that somebody else could go on the same mental journey and find himself bigger than Jesus, well, that seemed worth spending 75 minutes to hear about. So Friday, night I grabbed a seat at Neptune’s Studio Theatre to watch Rick Miller’s Bigger Than Jesus.

Miller starts the play by declaring he’s 33 and hasn’t been to mass in 15 years, but that he still knows the entire liturgy by heart. He then leads the audience on a hilarious, offensive, disturbing and disturbed voyage through mass. There are action figures. There is partial nudity. There is a man-on-man kiss. I was never a Catholic, but if this is what mass is like, I can see why Miller remembers it so clearly.

This is the best play I’ve seen in a long time. It’s certainly the best play Neptune has run this year. Miller starts off as Teacher and gives a skeptic’s account of the historical Jesus. Just when perhaps one is getting a little tired of his tedious dissection of the Good Book, the Teacher is replaced by the Preacher, a wild, free-spirited follower who gets the theatre rocking with a liberating Jesus. Passion, he shouts, means pass I on.

Next up is a flight on Air Jesus, complete with adulterous confessions and miracles in a Zen take on the Cosmic Christ. Who has a prayer cam.

As the massive mass rockets toward the end, Miller takes us back to the Last Supper. This is a one-man play, so he calls in Ben Kenobi, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and other action figures to illustrate. This is the smartest, funniest scene I’ve witnessed in a theatre.

Jesus himself steps forward for the finale. The play keeps its wicked sense of humour, but uses it to paint a very human tragedy. Jesus worries about his mother watching him get tortured, about what his legacy will be, about who will carry out what acts in his name.

Then he dies.

His resurrection is a serene and unexpected scene.

Bigger Than Jesus – the name is borrowed from the infamous John Lennon line – is a superb play. Miller is mesmerizing in its journey around the thorny crown of Christianity. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you think and it’ll startle your heart with unexpected beauty.

jon@jontattrie.ca

Bigger Than Jesus is at the Neptune Studio Theatre Until April 24. Get your tickets at Neptunetheatre.com or by calling 429-7070.
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