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FringeNext: The First Book of the Bible (Review)

By Stacy Sims · June 3rd, 2011 · Fringe
The premiere of The First Book of the Bible was the first sold-out show of the 2011 Fringe. One of three entries in the new FringeNext category (works produced, created and performed by teens), this work by School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) seniors storms out of the gate with all the makings of a successful Fringe show.

For starters, it’s got controversy. Created by the students as a senior project (a part of the SCPA curriculum), it was banned by the administration and was not allowed to be performed during prime-time school hours. Senior advisor and SCPA faculty member Gina Kleesattel confirmed what the parents were buzzing about: The First Book of the Bible, even with age restrictions and warnings, was deemed inappropriate fare when The Vagina Monologues and For Colored Girls got the green light in past years.

Luckily, it is perfect fare for FringeNext.

The First Book of the Bible is an irreverent take on the wacky stories of the Bible, performed with youthful, improvisational energy by 14 talented performers. It’s South Park meets Glee and seems a high school companion piece to the highly successful Book of Mormon, currently playing on Broadway.

Three chill musicians set the scene with a lackadaisical jam on conga drum, guitar and piano. Once the lights go up and God says, “Fuck, no!” the actors set a fast and entertaining clip to move through about 30 different, mainly hilarious, interpretations of Bible stories featuring some 52 different characters.

While I am no biblical scholar, it seems that the stories are generally accurate to the sequencing of recorded events. But the fun comes in the character details. God (Chris Gosser) is preoccupied by porn, so spaces out on the fact that Noah (Daniel Westheimer) is “floating on the ocean while the whole world dies” — one of many clever songs. Cain (Richard Lowenberg) yearns for parental acceptance and insists, “I like soccer, too!” only to be told, “Your life is really going to suck.”

But whether running a gag about Viagra or incest or George Michael or circumcision by scissor, the extremely talented cast has a blast. It’s a thrill to see the next generation of theater artists rock the house with their physical energy, humor and intelligence. I’m sure many of them are off to other cities to test out their abilities, but let’s hope at least a few of them stick around here.



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