Saturday, December 20, 2008

JESUS MY BOY "Ninety minutes of bliss" - Vancouver Sun

Joseph builds a charming holiday story
Jesus' stepfather walks a fine holiday line between Hannukah and Christmas
Peter Birnie, Vancouver Sun theatre critic

It's a Judeo-Christian Christmas at Pacific Theatre, where the Jewish stepfather of Christianity's Son of God holds forth on what it was like to raise Jesus Christ -- not from the dead, but from birth. Mary's husband Joseph is a middling carpenter, a great guy and an outstanding surrogate dad in John Dowie's charming Jesus, My Boy, a one-man show for an actor attuned to walking the fine holiday line between Hanukkah and Christmas.

David Adams does so with élan. The veteran actor steps outside his own religious roots to give his Joseph the reverberating nature of a Jew who understands his religion's place in the rapidly changing world of old Judea; Joe is not unaware that the followers of the young man he raised point to a whole new era. ...

Dowie writes Joseph as a joker who loves to tell a story, and Sarah Rodgers directs the one-act show with an eye to delivering a complete Christmas package. As Joseph tinkers in his basement workshop, frequent serenades of sweet seasonal music come courtesy two musicians performing live. From a clarinet lick of klezmer to the use of half a dozen different guitars, Jeremy Eisenhauer and Sheree Plett accompany themselves as they sing, in pretty harmony.

The story is a simple chronology of Joseph's emergence as a pretty crummy carpenter, especially compared to his father, before hitting the road. When he met and married Mary, life seemed pretty darn good for Joe -- until his good lady wife announced she was pregnant. By no less a Father than God Himself.

Joseph shrugs. What are you going to do? I love her, we'll raise him as ours and have some more -- the old-fashioned way -- along the way.

Such sweet sentiment flavours this show like sugar on a Christmas cookie. It's also spiced like cinnamon by the sharp observations Joseph makes about the horrors of Roman occupation (his detailed description of crucifixion is particularly horrifying) and has just enough Hanukkah oil in its lamp to enlighten us on many of the events that have become archetypal at this time of year. Lauchlin Johnston has hammered together a set that's the spitting image of any basement workroom, my father's included, where the patriarch can retire to saw and nail and enjoy coffee from a thermos. Jesus, My Boy is about 90 minutes of bliss for anyone who loves the smell of wood shavings and the telling of not just any Christmas story, but the Christmas story.

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