Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Sean McIntyre, Adam Lebowitz-Lockard
Photo: Hunter Canning
The story of Job in the bible is one of the weirder episodes in a book full of weird episodes, and in The Flea Theater's production of Job, featuring The Flea's resident theatre troupe, The Bats, playwright Thomas Bradshaw and director Benjamin H. Kamine leave no weirdness unturned. Bradshaw uses humor and violence to emphasize the creepy casualness of a God who plays with his subjects with no more concern than a kid burning ants with magnified sunlight. And Job, who is visited with some truly baroque afflictions, is ostensibly one of God's favorites! If that's how God treats him, just imagine how he might treat the rest of us. (Oh, yeah, floods, plagues, boils, Mitt Romney.)

Bradshaw's God is a somewhat mellow guy who meditates and hangs out with his two favorite sons, Jesus and Dionysus. This relative mellowness makes even more chilling his decision to allow his brother Satan to torture Job so that he can win a bet. Job's pain and suffering are incidental. This God is worse than a vengeful God; he is a careless God.

When God eventually restores to Job most of what was taken from him, God says, "I’m going to send him a new wife, and they’ll have six children, twice as many as he had before." Here again, humans are just playthings, and God seems to think that Job's first wife and three children can be replaced as easily as camels and sheep. 

But Job doesn't come out looking so wonderful either. He is pompous and self-satisfied and dripping with a sense of entitlement, and he is also capable of great violence. In this way he seems truly formed in his maker's image.

Bradshaw's play is interesting, thought-provoking, and vivid. It is also, in this production, one of the most unpleasant evenings I have ever spent in a theatre. I get that Bradshaw and Kamine want us to feel the horrors that occur, but watching murder, rape, and necrophilia in an extremely small space is just too much. It becomes violence porn, with effects for the sake of effects. The violence is well-done--kudos to fight director Michael Wieser--but it is also overdone, and gratuitous. While the suggestion of violence can horrify a theatre audience, this level of carnage replaces the emotional response with horror-movie-level--bad horror-movie-level--shock.

Another problem is that Job is 20 minutes of material stretched to about an hour. Perhaps this is one reason that the violence is depicted in such loving, time-consuming detail.

Bradshaw is know as a  provocateur. In this case I think he let the faux provocation of icky effects outweigh the genuine provocation of depicting a God loved by millions as self-centered and totally lacking compassion.

(third row center; press ticket)

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