BIGGER THAN JESUS by Rick Miller and Daniel Brooks (Necessary Angel/Wyrd Productions). See Theatre Openings, page 54, for details. Rating: NNNNN
Daniel Brooks and Rick Miller are trying to nail the image of Jesus Christ. The director and writer/performer are collaborating on Bigger Than Jesus, a multimedia show that's being workshopped for five performances before travelling to Alberta. It's tentatively slated for a full production next year.
What's drawing Brooks, for whom Christianity isn't a pressing concern, to the work?
"I've always been interested in the story in some way, I guess," offers the new artistic director of Necessary Angel. "I see theatre as a place where a secular humanist can get involved in the mysteries of life, go through a potentially religious moment.
"Theatre has its roots in religion, after all, and I'm interested in both as ways of reaching a transcendent experience."
Miller is best known as the creator of MacHomer, the hit show that transposed the Simpsons characters into Shakespeare's Scottish tragedy.
Miller and Brooks met while performing in Robert Lepage's film Possible Worlds. Brooks had directed a first-rate stage version of the script, and the two found they had a lot in common, including an interest in multimedia.
"I was fascinated by Rick's assertion that he knows the Catholic liturgy by heart. We're building Bigger Than Jesus as a kind of mass, with a video camera as a transformative tool like the bread and wine of the liturgy.
"It's structured around the 12 points of the passion story, with a dozen characters - all played by Rick, who's a great mimic and musician - attempting to get at the core of the figure of Christ."
The characters, some biblical and some not, include a Jewish academic who gives a detailed lecture insisting that a literal reading of the Gospels leads to world problems, a preacher who gives an inspiring sermon, a pilot on Air Jesus and - possibly - the Virgin Mary.
"They're all embodiments of Christ and Rick in different ways. What we're doing is exploring Christ as man, as god, as fantasy. He may even turn out to be a character.
"The result," says Brooks, "is funny and irreverent, beautiful and delicate."