PVPA presents provocative comedy, ‘The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told’

Last modified: Friday, March 29, 2013

What if Adam hadn’t been joined in the Garden of Eden by Eve? What if, instead, his soulmate was named Steve? And what if they were joined in paradise, not by Cain and Abel, but by Jane and Mabel?

That’s the premise behind the play “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,” a gay-positive comedy by Paul Rudnick that dissects and analyzes history, relationships and gay politics. Along the way, Rudnick also skewers a few stereotypes, while exploring deep questions of family and faith.

The play, which will be presented by the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Public Charter School this weekend at the Academy of Music in Northampton, has stirred controversy because of its alternative view of the biblical Book of Genesis. Scott Goldman, head of PVPA, received emailed petitions and phone calls protesting the school’s planned performance.

Productions in other parts of the country have been picketed by conservative religious groups who object to the play’s treatment of religion and view of homosexuality.

“It’s pretty provocative,” said the play’s director, Chris Rohman. “Some people may consider it blasphemous, and its version of biblical narratives is certainly non-traditional.”

Long history

“The Most Fabulous Story” covers a 2,000-year time-span, breaks a number of theatrical conventions and, in PVPA’s production, makes inventive use of the Academy of Music’s stage and auditorium. Supporting characters include a drag-queen Pharaoh, a disabled lesbian cable-TV rabbi and the production’s Stage Manager who, as usual in the theater, plays God.

Act One recounts the major episodes of the Old Testament: There’s the Garden of Eden, the ark, a visit with a highly rambunctious Pharaoh.

“This garden is fabulous!,” Adam declares as he gets his first look at the Garden of Eden. He rushes about, in awe of the trees, the lakes, the blue skies.

But, as delighted as he is with his surroundings, Adam is perplexed: “Where am I?,” he asks no one in particular. “Who am I?,” he wonders. And for that matter, “Who am I talking to?” And, by the way, he asks, “Am I gay?” “Yes,” he decides, “and I am alone.”

But, not for long. Soon, he is joined by Steve.

It’s also during the first act that Jane and Mabel, a lesbian couple, are introduced to Adam and Steve, and, in turn, introduce the men to God’s presence and love.

“God is the creator of cosmos and the source of all spiritual and moral nourishment,” Mabel tells her new friends.

Together, the two couples decide to start civilization, but procreation proves to be a challenge.

Act Two fast-forwards to modern-day New York City: Steve is HIV positive. It’s Christmas Eve, and Jane is nine months pregnant. The two women invite Adam and Steve to join them at their wedding ceremony, which is interrupted when Jane gives birth. Steve tells Adam that he’ll probably not survive much longer. Bound by their long life together, and the miracle of birth they’ve just witnessed, the two men comfort each other, even though they know their remaining time together will be short.

Laughing in the dark

“The Most Fabulous Story” debuted in The Berkshires in 1998 and had a run in New York City. In a New York Times review, Ben Brantley called the play “both a testament to the virtues of laughing in the dark and a celebration of the kind of theater that allows people to do so.”

Rohman, a theater consultant and adjunct faculty member at PVPA, says it’s an important play to produce.

“I consider it very positive and affirming ... not just because it’s gay-affirming but because it wrestles, seriously as well as humorously and satirically, with deep issues of faith, family and belonging.” After all, he adds, the central characters’ journeys are defined by their search for the meaning of faith and the presence of God.

“Notwithstanding the comedic spin,” he said, “it’s really quite a sympathetic view of religion.”

“The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” will be performed Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Academy of Music in Northampton. Tickets purchased in advance cost $12; $10 for seniors and military; $6 for students and children: At the door: $14; $12; and $8. Tickets can be purchased at the Academy of Music box office from 3 to 6 p.m., by calling 584-9032, ext. 105, or online at www.academyofmusictheatre.tix.com.


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