Caught the second coming of Bigger Than Jesus at Factory last week with a group of high school students. The show, by Rick Miller and Daniel Brooks , is as amazing and entertaining as it was first time around, with some of the best use of multimedia - courtesy of designers Ben Chaisson and Beth Kates - we've ever seen.
The audience - which included a class from a Catholic girls' school - was totally caught up with the piece, which is as spiritual as it is satiric.
A lot of kids responded to the call-and-response section of the show, which is based on the format of Catholic mass. But they went positively wild when Miller, playing a fire-and-brimstone southern preacher who encourages people to follow their inner Jesus, leaped off the stage, ran into the house and kissed a guy.
Full of laughs, thoughtful moments and even a touch of poignancy, Bigger Than Jesus is worth a second visit before it goes on tour. Miller can perform it in French and is learning it in German to play in Munich.
If you haven't yet seen Bigger Than Jesus, one of the best pieces of theatre in recent memory, become a member of the congregation. We promise you'll be singing hosanna afterwards.
See Continuing, page 87, for details.
For director/choreographer Brandy Leary , Mexican artist Frida Kahlo resonates strongly for today's audiences. Crippled after an accident, Kahlo went on to paint a series of haunting works, a number of them self-portraits. The woman and her art have inspired the latest work (playing at Artword ) by Leary's company Anandam , Frida And Herself , which looks at Kahlo and her world through puppetry, mask and dance.
You might remember the Mexican painter from Gloria Montero's award-winning play Frida K, starring Allegra Fulton, or the film with Salma Hayek.
"Kahlo is an icon on the edge of popular culture," says Leary, trained in theatre, Indian dance drama and puppetry. "She lived in fear and pain but never became a victim.
"Her portraits articulate a modern experience of pain. They're carefully composed, festive - she always decks herself out like she's going to a party - and pulled together. But in the glint of her eye, the way she holds her hand or tilts her head, there's a crack in the facade through which you can see the alienation, loneliness and suffering. There's an imbalance between the surface and the substance."
Leary got a strong response to the show, especially its blend of live actors and puppets, at last summer's New York Fringe.
"Dealing with Kahlo's visual world, recreating its essence and making her two-dimensional work come to life onstage, requires an active relationship between puppet and manipulator. Playing with what's real and what's not, we highlight the humanity and fragility of the painter and the paintings." For more info, see Openings, page 86.