Comedy of biblical proportions

Just in time for Ash Wednesday, the tiny Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre is staging an original musical called Three Messiahs Walk into a Bar. Director Maggie Adair Upton describes the show, which opened last weekend, as “a wacky look at the story of Joseph and Mary from the Bible.”

“Joseph is running around trying to beat up on people because they’re calling her the ‘Virgin Mary,’ and he thinks that’s insulting to him,” she continued. “The show is very campy. It’s straight out of vaudeville.”

The play marks a return to action for the Thistle Dew, which hasn’t mounted a show in about eight months. There’s a cast of 10, in a cozy performance space that seats fewer than 40 people.

Three Messiahs Walk into a Bar is the first show written by Elk Grove high-school teacher Matthew Hanf, who said he’s been working on it for 10 years. The piece was given its first reading through the Thistle Dew’s weekly playwright’s and screenwriter’s workshop. Theater owner Thomas Kelly is using the meetings to develop new scripts, some of which he will produce.

This is not the first time a local playwright has offered a somewhat irreverent revision of a New Testament story. Celebration Arts twice has staged James Wheatley’s Stable in the Back, an alternate take on the nativity story.

Performances of Three Messiahs are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through March 17, with a Sunday matinee on March 4. Reservations are required and the $24 ticket includes complimentary coffee, tea and dessert. The Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre is located in the bottom of an old Victorian at 1901 P Street. Call (916) 444-8209 for more information.