‘That’s Armageddon’

Chico Cabaret serves up a devilishly good time courtesy of The Bible

JESUS CHRIST! <br>Everyone wants to be the saviour in Chico Cabaret’s <i>The Bible</i>. From left, Andy Hafer, Brian Miner and Nick Estep.

Everyone wants to be the saviour in Chico Cabaret’s The Bible. From left, Andy Hafer, Brian Miner and Nick Estep.

Photo By Tom Angel

I could really use a brush-up on my Ezekial and Exodus. What better way, I thought, than an evening-long play designed to cover this and all the rest of the books, Gospels, and letters of the Old and New Testament? In less than two hours? Played by no more than three actors?

My reductionist, Cliff Notes-loving self was not disappointed. In Chico Cabaret’s latest offering, The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged!), the religious, agnostic, atheist, cult member and even Catholic like me will find their Adam’s (or Eve’s) rib tickled by this mostly tactful and playful abridgement to the world’s all-time-greatest best-seller.

Props, sight gags, silly costumes and one very large water pistol hustle the collection of skits along at a break-neck pace. References to contemporary celebrities and political figures intermingle with slow-motion fight sequences and even a David Letterman-style Top 10 List. Musical numbers cover such topics as the genealogy of who begat whom ("Begatin', begatin', back then there was nothing else to do"), Peter’s denial of Jesus ("For he’s a jolly good savior, who Peter will deny"), and the end of the world as we know it to the tune of “That’s Armageddon.”

Brian Miner (playing, the playbill explains, Brian Miner) leads this trio of actors with a sort of Hugh Grantish appeal, quick on the uptake and not above using his fellow cast members as his foil. Donning a pair of sunglasses and manning the piano, Miner establishes his suavity with “In the Beginning Blues” and reinforces his role as leader of the pack with his rapid-fire delivery of the more intellectual jokes. And, oh yes, he gets to play Jesus.

Andy Hafer’s character, Andy Hafer, is an adult innocent who apparently gleaned his entire knowledge of the Good Book from a source known as the “Golden Honey Bible.” This cleaned-up, kid-friendly version has its characters continually ending up in the “Land of Golden Honey,” where the blessed enjoy riding the rides and playing with the talking ponies, while the condemned get sick on cotton candy.

Hafer’s looks and physicality, reminiscent of Jack Black, are used to create a character long on enthusiasm but short on brainpower. Acting as the simpleton, Hafer is used to point out common points of confusion in the Bible. For example, how can you tell the difference between Joseph and Joseph? Or Mary and Mary? (Don’t worry, there is yet another song that elucidates such fine points.)

Finally, we have Nick Estep playing (and I’m sure that you see where this is going) Nick Estep, who must endure the more embarrassing of the show’s many sight gags, from wearing the smallest fig leaf to prancing about as the “Resurrection Bunny.” Estep endears himself to the audience most when waxing lovingly about his self-fashioned miniature Noah’s Ark, complete with a proportionally sized Noah, painstakingly created over the course of seven months using stone-age carving tools. With a great emphasis on its fragility and emotional cost, you know that this prop will not live to see the final number.

Written by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, The Bible is just one of five of their very popular shows, two of which are London’s longest-running comedies—The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged!) and The Complete History of America (Abridged!). The writers/actors of this company (often referred to as the “Bad Boys of Abridgement") have changed over the years (one member left to become a Disney “Imagineer"), and this particular installment features the work of Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor.

A fumbled line or two were but forgivable imperfections in a performance that was, overall, a joy to behold by all—from the teens seated around a far table, to the gray-haired groups of couples in the front. If you need a good laugh, or if you would just like to learn the real reason behind circumcision, make a date with The Bible… abridged.