BWW Reviews: HOW TO WRITE A NEW BOOK FOR THE BIBLE at the Seattle Rep
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by Jay Irwin
There are certain authors whose shows I never miss if possible. Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Terrence McNally, and Howard Ashman to name just a few. These are people whose work I rank among my favorites for the richness and compassion in their writing. Well, after yet another stunning work such as "How to Write a New Book for the Bible", currently playing at the Seattle Rep, I think I have another new favorite in Bill Cain.
After his previous triumph of "Equivocation" at the Rep, Cain has brought in a work that only shows his versatility as it's quite the departure from the aforementioned show. "How to Write a New Book for the Bible" focuses on the all too real and glaring world of Cain's own family as they (and he) deal with the passing of their lives and eventually the deaths of his two parents. But beyond any exorcism of personal demons he might be getting out on stage (and my readers know how I usually hate that) he engages his audience with not only compelling characters and a rich and complex narrative, but also the simple and brutal honesty that comes across in his writing. There's really not much more to say about the story without giving the entire thing away so we'll move on to the amazing ensemble cast.
Filled with beauty and heart were the performances of the four incredible actors who seamlessly played the people in Cain's life some with multiple characters. Tyler Pierce portrays the author himself and manages to command the attention of the entire theater right from the start. Simply and at the same time powerfully he serves as both narrator of the play as well as subject with a sublime and honest voice. Aaron Blakey, in addition to his many supporting characters, portrays Cain's brother Paul with a stunning and quiet complexity. Leo Marks also turns in several characters but his main focus is on Cain's father, Pete. And with this character, as with all of them, he has a subtle grace to his acting. And Linda Gehringer as Cain's mother, Mary, turns in a singular performance as a strong yet ailing woman trying to do the best she can. She's all at once hilarious, heartbreaking, sturdy and frail and never once felt the need to "act". But then, that's the way of these four gifted performers as they effortlessly wandered in and out of characters, ages, locales and moods. Truly a stunning ensemble.
In addition to the beauty and simplicity of the show and performances I also have to call out the wonderful lighting and set design from Alexander V. Nichols and Scott Bradley as well as the outstanding direction of Kent Nicholson. The world they have created while practical and real at the same time comes across as an ethereal dream and only lends itself to the gorgeousness of the play.
Bill Cain's "Equivocation" is still one of the most amazing theatrical experiences I've ever had but his wildly different "How to Write a New Book for the Bible" only shows that Cain is a brilliant writer and his works must have attention paid to them. And as was his "Equivocation" at the Rep two years ago, this production is definitely one not to miss for the season.
"How to Write a New Book for the Bible" performs at the Seattle Rep through February 5th. For tickets or information contact the Rep box office at 206-443-2222 or visit them online at www.seattlerep.org.
Photo credit: kevinberne.com