The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) from Class 6 Theatre

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Class 6 Theatre is a company that doesn't always perform in the same venue, which is a little challenging if for no other reason than that people are creatures of habit. Even with all kinds of social media at your disposal, your returning audience will sometimes try to go where they saw you before. 

With that in mind, I'm pointing out right at the start that The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) -- another in the series of "run around, make cheap jokes, change wigs a lot, and boil down something that would ordinarily take a three-day weekend to cover" productions conceived by The Reduced Shakespeare Company -- is being presented at Phoenix College.

The three guys who host your playgoing experience and play all the roles (with the assistance of accompanist Lincoln Wright, a couple of stagehands, and a briefly appearing unemployed Hooters server on roller skates) are talented, cheerful, and entirely awesome, making up for some script weaknesses and opening-night dead spots. The pace of this thing is relentless.

Regarding that script, I'm not going to say the RSC members are lazy, because they work their butts off, but I'm still waiting to see a follow-up show that's as tight and hilarious as their original The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Blessed with top-notch subject matter and forged in the crucible of Renaissance festivals and the Edinburgh Fringe, it kills.

The Hollywood episode is the victim of some heinously unfocused structure; the upside of Bible is that not only is just about everything, no matter how baffling, really, really short, but it doesn't even pretend to be going anywhere. Nevertheless I don't see the point of having a sketch about pro wrestling just because Jacob wrestled with an angel. There aren't any solid jokes or gags in that whole segment.

Meanwhile, though, dozens of shameful puns were appropriately groanworthy, other jokes had me honking, even old chestnuts we'd all heard before, and the original songs in Bible, ably belted and hoofed through by the cast, add a really sweet dimension of showmanship along with savagely funny lyrics.

David Dickinson is terrific, as usual. David Loar's character projects a special aura of warmth, compassion, and put-upon pissed-offness. Ryan Wentzel has a voice that was hard to hear in the first act, but it got better, and he's also super-funny and a ball of energy. Plus he's a hot Marine who was deployed in Afghanistan.

Even though the ensemble is hands-down the strongest element in this production, Dori Brown's simple set, with crazy detailed panels that look like an illuminated manuscript, does an excellent job of pulling focus to the center of the large stage. And the identical linen-y tunics of Gail Wolfenden-Steib's costume design are charming on their own while setting up a utilitarian backdrop for little character-defining pieces that should almost be taking their own bows.

After this weekend's shows, Class 6 will present one more performance of Bible at a church in North Arcadia. It's the 21st century; we have to keep on our toes.

The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) continues through Sunday, September 18, at the John Paul Theatre on the Phoenix College campus, 1202 West Thomas Road. 

There's some construction, fencing, lumpy terrain, and detours between the north parking lot and the theater right now, so if you use a wheelchair or scooter or can't climb three steps with a railing, enter the campus from the southwest parking lot at the Thomas Road entrance, which is just about equally close. Tickets (order here) are $20, or pay-what-you-can for students and active military with ID. Call 602-403-6759 for further information.

The encore performance will take place on Saturday, September 24, at Shepherd of the Hills United Church of Christ, 5524 East Lafayette Boulevard. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance here

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