From The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told
From The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told
Despite the waterfall of gay themes and references that sluices through Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, the "story" of the play has a quite traditional feel to it: In the end, only love and family (and possibly some nod to a divine power) can provide any kind of shelter against the bombardments of existence. It is a play that moves nicely in phase with a boomer population in their fifth and sixth decades, beginning to have their comfortable doubts and genteel brushes with mortality (though the brief flashes of nudity, simulated sex, and carnal descriptions might give some in the audience a wrinkle or two of momentary anxiety). In the end, Rudnick seems to be saying, we all pretty much want the same things, so why do we make such a fuss about differences--and that's not a bad message to take away after 2½ hours of facile send-ups and humorous low-downs.

This "most fabulous story," as the press materials state, "ponders what the world would be like had God made Adam and Steve, not Adam and Eve." It is filled with Rudnick's high-fructose craftsmanship as he begins with the creation of the Garden of Eden (confidently tossed off by Amy Rhodes, playing an omnipotent stage manager calling out Genesis-like cues such as, "All animal life: go!") where the first couples--and couplings--are Adam and Steve, Jane and Mabel.

We follow them through a crazed historical pageant that brings us down to a present-day Christmas party in Chelsea, where a lesbian rabbi gets set to marry a pregnant Jane (played by Sandra Heffley in a gravel-voiced mix of Rosanne and Ralph Kramden) to Mable, the wood-nymph nature worshipper (done to an airy turn by Helen McElwain).

Along the way weighty discussions of God, the meaning of life, and the despair of AIDS, intertwine with mentions of the 11th Commandment (not wearing white before Memorial Day) and fractured takes on the flood, Pharoah and Moses, and the birth of Jesus in a kinetic creche. It is all very funny and fizzy--Rudnick knows very well how to set up a joke--and even when it tries for deeper or higher resonances, it never travels far from a quip or a cut. Rudnick knows the diets of his audience well enough to know just how much profundity he can serve up before he has to get back to the quips that click.

The performances are all top-notch. In addition to the ones mentioned above, Adam (Henry David Clarke) and Steve (Chris Arruda) make the two-millennia journey as lovers with style and affection. Michael Baron plays multiple roles (his funniest being a horny rhino on board the Ark), as does Richard Carey (his cranky gay Santa is a sarcastic sorbet), Michelle Dowd (the aforementioned lesbian rabbi as well as Ftatateeta, Pharoah's guard), and Traci Crouch (whose cheerleading Mormon echoes Tony Kushner's line in Angels: "If they believe in the angel Moroni, why aren't they called morons?"). Scott Edmiston's direction is sure-handed and inventive, as is the sound by Ben Arons, lighting by Karen Perlow, costumes by Tom Siderberg, and choreography by Judith Chafee. And a special nod to the five stagehands, who keep everything flowing smoothly.