You wouldn't expect the author of "I Hate Hamlet" to be a reverent guy, so it's no surprise that playwright Paul Rudnick is equally flip about religion in his creation comedy, "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told."
Basically, Rudnick has taken the assertion made by anti-gay religious fundamentalists that "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," and run with it. The result is a bit long and episodic, but it's filled with comic nuggets ("Angels are nothing but Prozac for poor people"), and it's being performed with all due comic seriousness of purpose at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre, under Terry J. Long's sure-handed direction.
One of my favorite bits owes a debt to Thornton Wilder's "Our Town." Rudnick's play is presided over by the character of a Stage Manager, in this case a woman (the efficient Vicki Margolis) who sits in a tall chair in one corner of the theater issuing such cues as: "Creation of the world, go."
Although it takes Adam (an endearing Oscar Ceville) several millennia (and nearly three hours of stage time) to figure this out, the Stage Manager is one possible answer to the play's overriding question: Does God Exist?
In the meantime, Adam meets his ideal mate, Steve (a matter-of-fact David C. Allen) in the Garden of Eden, and after Adam's curiosity gets them expelled, they join forces with Jane (tough-as-nails Laura K. Cosner) and Mabel (gentle Katherine Jaeger), a lesbian couple convinced they were the first human beings.
The first act follows this foursome from the Flood - where they engage in some pretty wild goings-on aboard the Ark - to the birth of Christianity. The second act takes place in Adam and Steve's modern-day Manhattan apartment on Christmas Eve, where Adam still is questioning the existence of God and one member of the seemingly immortal foursome is facing the possibility of death. This act also includes a disabled lesbian televangelist rabbi, played to the outlandish hilt by Michelle Pinkham.
If the humor weren't so sharp and the characters so empathetically drawn, the play might be little more than a drawn-out "Saturday Night Live" sketch. But Rudnick - whose credits also include "Jeffrey" and the screenplay for "In & Out" - has solid comic chops, and though some streamlining might have made "The Most Fabulous Story" a little more fabulous, it's still darned funny.
Show times at the Spotlighters, 817 St. Paul St., are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through June 30. Tickets cost $12. (Show contains nudity and adult situations.) Call 410-752-1225.
New season announced
The Contemporary American Theater Festival in residence at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va., has announced its 2001 season, which begins previews July 4 and continues through July 29.
This year's lineup consists of four plays by a quartet of writers new to the festival: "The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa," by John Olive, about creating, collecting and forging art; "The Occupation," by Harry Newman, about a clash of cultures and human rights; "Tape," by Stephen Belber, about a battle among three former high school friends concerning truth and loyalty; and "The Pavilion," by Craig Wright, about high school sweethearts reunited at their 20th reunion.
The plays are performed in rotating repertory. Single tickets range from $15 to $25. Subscriptions to all four plays cost $75. For information call 800-999-2283 or visit www.catf.org.
There are still a few slots available for "Who Needs New Plays?" a forum for area theater professionals, at Arena Stage in Washington this weekend. The event kicks off at 8 p.m. Friday with a keynote address by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel and wraps up at 5:30 p.m. Saturday with a speech by another Pulitzer winner, Wendy Wasserstein. In between, participants have a choice of nearly a dozen workshops and discussions, including Writing for the Commercial Theater, Translations and Adaptations (Center Stage associate dramaturg James Magruder is among the panelists) and Marketing New Plays. The fee is $35. For information, call 202-554-9066, Ext. 210.
The Chesapeake Center for Creative Arts, 194 Hammonds Lane, Brooklyn Park, is offering several youth theater classes this summer: Monologue/Audition Workshop, June 18-22 for ages 9-12, and June 25-29 for ages 13 and older; Shakespeare Teen Summer Workshop, two sessions for ages 12-18 July 9-27 and Aug. 6-24; Improvisation Clinic, July 9-13 for ages 9-12, and July 16-20 for ages 13 and older; Summer Drama Workshop, two sessions July 16-20 for ages 8-11, and 12 and older; and Stage Combat Choreography, Aug. 6-10 for ages 13 and older.
Most workshops cost $100 for center members and $125 for non-members. But the Summer Drama Workshop costs $125 for members, $150 for non-members; the Shakespeare workshop costs $300 for members, $325 for non-members. For information call 410-636-6597.
Maryland Renaissance Festival. By appointment only. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. June 9 at the festival site, 1821 Crownsville Road, Annapolis. Needed are actors for the General Company (ages 18 and up) and the Young Adult Ensemble (ages 16-18). Prepare a Shakespearean monologue no longer than 1 1/2 minutes; bring photo and resume. All positions are paid. Festival runs Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day, Aug. 25-Oct. 21. Rehearsals begin July 9. Call 1-800-296-7304.