After hearing about the criticism this play received from local religious groups prior to its debut and of the protests outside the doors on opening night, I had to see what all of the fuss was about. The second night of Queen City Theatre Company’s performance of Paul Rudnick’s The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, directed by Glenn T. Griffin, was another packed house and there were no protestors at the door when I arrived. While there are many biblical allusions to the events of Genesis, I truly found no part of the play attempting to mock the stories they mirrored. What I did find was a compelling, funny and smartly written play about the search for love, our place in the world and for answers to questions much larger than ourselves.
Act I opens at the command of the Stage Manager (Stephanie DiPaolo) and with a “Go” we find ourselves witnessing a unique take on the story of creation with Adam (Scott Miller) and Steve (Kristian Wedolowski) replacing the traditional Adam and Eve. Adam and Steve discover that they are not alone in the garden when they cross paths with Jane (Meghan Lowther) and Mabel (Karen Christensen) who thought that they were the only two people in the garden. In their own ways, the four each try to find their place in the world and answers to questions that seem to have no answer. How did we get here? Who created all of this? The search for answers eventually leads the four out of the garden and into a world much larger, and stranger, than any of them imagined. During their journey spanning several centuries the cast “makes contact” with a higher power, board a boat with some rather randy animals on deck and find themselves in the service of a fabulous Egyptian god in the flesh. Another cue from the Stage Manager and it is 2000 years later. Go.
Act II is set in Adam and Steve’s Manhattan apartment on Christmas Eve. As Adam is putting on the finishing touches around their apartment many familiar faces from Act I show up to celebrate. Despite the centuries that have passed and their experiences, the two couples are still seeking many of the same answers and facing similar struggles albeit with more modern relevance. Despite some of the somber notes in Act II, the play remains true to the hilarity of Act I while leaving you with plenty of food for thought long after the show is over.
The cast is incredible! From the moment Stephanie DiPaolo stepped on stage I absolutely loved her character. The presence that the Stage Manager adds throughout the play is so subtle at points, but absolutely necessary and DiPaolo executes the role so well. Adam is such a genuine and honest human being who so desperately wants to find the truth and Scott Miller embodies that sincerity. Kristian Wedolowski plays a wonderful balance to the gentler Adam as his partner Steve. Miller and Wedolowski’s performances realistically convey the intimacy of the journey these two go on together from beginning to end. Meghan Lowther added so much to this performance as Jane. You really see the character grow over the centuries and Lowther performs some intense scenes. Karen Christensen captures the free spirit persona of Mabel; I laughed as she danced to Madonna and I teared up as she knelt begging for a miracle. Amanda Liles plays several roles throughout the show; most notable would be the delightful and un-killable Rabbi Sharon. Matt Kenyon is absolutely fabulous in this production. Like Liles, Kenyon plays several roles and each one is hysterical. Steven James also plays seven different roles in this fabulous story including a bartending rhino. James is at his best when alongside Kenyon’s Pharaoh and later as the go-go dancer in Act II. Gayle Taggart also tackles several roles including Adam’s modern day coworker. Without giving away a surprise I will say that Taggart completely threw me off guard when she made her first appearance in the performance, in a very good way!
From this first scene I was drawn into this play entirely, and by the reaction of the audience it was obvious that I wasn’t the only one pulled into the magic of the performance. Applauding, laughter and cheers were a constant from the audience from beginning to end. Imaginative technical executions and a fantastic musical selection combine with the strength of this fabulous cast to create a truly magical experience. The costumes and styling of the cast was wonderful and added so much to the story. The play is filled with little surprises throughout which serve to catch you off guard, make you smile and make you think. Even though there is no actual nudity in the play, there is a lot of adult situations and sexual content that lend this performance to be for mature audiences.
My biggest regret with The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told is the fact that so many people won’t have the opportunity to see it because they protest something without even learning more about it. This production isn’t about mocking religion or faith, but rather addressing concepts and issues that many of us struggle with today that are especially relevant to people of the LGBT community. While Rudnick does address these issues with a lot of humor, I never got the sense that the intention was to insult. The performance will run until February 18 so there is still plenty of time to make plans to see the show. Bring a friend and go in with an open mind and an open heart. You won’t walk out with any questions answered, but you may walk out thinking about these issues in a different way. Go.
For more information about Queen City Theatre Company and the production of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told please visit queencitytheatre.com. : :