Jesus' Kid Brother Takes Center Stage In Fun, Moving Musical
By James Scarborough
Gazette Arts Writer
In our global culture, it takes courage to stage a perky musical about the brother of a religious icon.
And it takes skill to pull it off so it's not silly, offensive, or -- think Holland -- inflammatory.
The International City Theatre has managed both. Under Jules Aaron's direction, this production of Brian and Mark Karmelich's "Jesus' Kid Brother" at the Center Theatre is funny, moving and well done.
It's the story of Larry (Joseph Sark), brother of miracle-working Jesus. He wants to stake out his own identity, no mean feat when people don't even call him by his name. His father Joseph (Jeffrey Landman) advises him to get a good job, find a good woman, and settle down.
But he can't. As he trolls about town with his chum Barabbas (Christopher Dean Briant) he finds that girls want him to set them up with the 12 hottie disciples.
Then he meets Mary Pilate (Kristen Beth Williams), daughter of Governor Pontius (Scott Dreier) and sparks fly. Mary's tired of being a rich and noble Roman, a sentiment she beautifully expresses in "Fly Away".
Everything in this production works. With lyrics as witty as Tom Lehrer's "Vatican Rag" and tunes as catchy as "Jesus Christ, Superstar," the songs run the gamut from Gidget-esque I've-Got-A-Crush-On-You numbers to a sweet love song sung by Larry and Mary to an opening number that captures what it was like to be a Jew/a Roman in biblical times the same way that the opening number from "Guys and Dolls" captured the street energy of New York City.
There are a couple of running gags that don't get stale, including a coffee stand called (are you ready?), Star of David Bucks. Add a Jewish baker and wine merchant who want Jesus to be crucified because he's bad for business, making loaves multiply and turning water into wine.
But it's the performances that make the production snap, crackle, and pop.
Elaine Loh pulled off her Destiny Pilate, Mary's sister, with great delicacy, allowing her to say she doesn't like Jews the same way Scarlet O'Hara could say she doesn't like Yankees.
Sark gave Larry the same disingenuousness as the "40-Year-Old Virgin," the same regular guy-ness as Jerry Seinfeld. We identified with him because we all know his plight and, when he clicked with Williams (great casting, by the way), we clicked, too.
Williams did something I don't often see on the stage. She not only filled her Mary Pilate with appropriately restless impatience and then romantic radiance but, with each intonation, movement, and gesture, she made her character explode with every step, word, and moment of the story.
Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays. The show runs until March 12. Tickets are $35 to $45.
The Center Theatre is at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at 300 E. Ocean Blvd. For more information, call 436-4610 or visit www.ictlongbeach.org.
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