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LA Theater Review

Jimmy Christ

Things aren't easy in the Christ household: Elder son Jesus is a better carpenter than his father, second son Jimmy lives in the constant shadow of his brother's grandstanding "look-at-me" sunbeam climbs and leper cures, and then there's that sticky Son-of-God business. "The kid's obviously half-gentile," is the frustrated mantra of Joseph (Ronald Quigley), who believes Jesus' dad was really a passing Roman, but Mary (Jessica Blair) counters with, "How about walking on water? Can Romans do that?"

A wonderfully clever humor energizes Nicholas Monohan's play, immediately picked up in two exceptional performances by Jonah Wanicur as the title character and Trevor Parsons as his future-challenged surfer-dude redeemer brother who's unsure if his personal oracle told him to "go east" or "go eat." Parsons, whose Jesus looks and sounds a bit like an early Nordic Keanu Reeves, is a master of the deadpan while tossing away Monohan's paraphrased biblical gems, wholly comfortable with lines such as, "Hey, I want to try out a new parable on you guys if that's cool with you," then following with, "There's no use cryin' over spilt milk," which he proudly admits he thought up in a trance. The rubber-faced, earnestly tormented Wanicur is the perfect foil as the underachieving brother, especially hilarious when Jesus--a big hit with the ladies of Galilee--sets them both up on a messy double date with the Cohen sisters.

Under the generally able direction of Alex Sol--who lets his resident savior-in-training meander a bit whenever he utters his allegories--this is a delightful little no-frills production, but the script definitely needs trimming. The fun settles into repetition and preachiness in Act Two, suddenly turning the farcical nature of the piece into something with a gratuitous free-to-be-you-and-me moral to be gleaned, as though Monohan was unsure how else to wrap things up. There are also several unnecessary peripheral characters--especially an out-of-control and unintentionally unintelligible Alim Kouliev as the sisters' father and one campy Samaritan who's obviously always wanted to play a queen--leaving the impression these roles were an afterthought to be sure more members of the Dreamhouse Ensemble had a chance to appear onstage. Snip this all down into a less-rambling intermissionless 80 minutes, and Dreamhouse's dreams could come true.

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