Bethlehem Press

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Theater Review: The Dude arrives and abides at CKP

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

“The Second Coming” is the title of a poem written by William Butler Yeats in the aftermath of the carnage of World War I. Its allegorical reference is to the Christian belief that Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” After asserting that “the blood-dimmed tide is loosed,” Yeats’ poem concludes: “Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand.”

Yeats may have envisioned Jesus’ return to the broken world he knew, but he would never have conceived of Jesus or the return as Charlie Barnett has in his play “Him and Jim,” produced by the Crowded Kitchen Players at the Charles A. Brown Icehouse, Bethlehem. The March 8 opening night performance was reviewed.

The multi-talented Barnett is a 1969 graduate of Easton Area High School, who is a nationally-recognized composer of film, television and theatrical scores, and founder and leader of the jazz band Chaise Lounge. As a playwright, he also wrote “12ness,” which was produced by CKP last year.

In “Him & Jim,” Barnett’s irreverent, and heavily comical version of the second coming, “Jim,” played convincingly by Brian Lichty, is the beleaguered father of two daughters and owner of the financially-strapped Turbo Auto Parts Store.

You can guess who “Him” is. He is a cell-phone-using intruder in search of a carburetor for a 1967 Studebaker. He doesn’t own a car. He just likes Studebakers. Whether his visitations are an illusion or the real thing, they wind up working miracles on the troubled lives of the earthly characters.

CKP Director Ara Barlieb assembled a splendidly diverse cast in ages and talent. Brian Wendt (Him, aka Jesus) is hilarious just walking on stage foppishly flicking his long curly hair as one of his angels spreads confetti in his path. He carries with him and talks to a “sheep-ish” hand puppet that gives him advice (Are you old enough to remember Lambchop from “The Ed Sullivan Show”?), symbolic, no doubt, of the Good Shepherd moniker.

Ted Williams and Lauri Beth McMackin as the estranged father and daughter, provide some truly heartfelt moments in their scenes together.

Florence Taylor is imposing as Jim’s angry and frustrated wife Cassie, who works two jobs to support the family.

The three angels, Kerri-leigh Taylor, Paula Klein and Pamela McLean Wallace, were angelic.

The cast of 11 includes two young actors playing Jim’s daughters. Carolyn Taylor as Evie is precocious and funny, delivering her lines with gusto.

Her character’s older sister Bobbi is played by Olivia Sullivan, a young actor with tremendous potential. It was a delight to watch her wide range of facial expressions, as well as her ability to emote when other actors are speaking. Her cell-phone conversation with Jesus was a highpoint.

Wth “Him & Jim,” everything beyond the script and the acting seemed superfluous, but it needs to be mentioned anyway. Barlieb’s set was an “L”-shape that allowed for movement, albeit somewhat restricted. The actors in the living room scenes were close enough to theater-goers in the first row to touch them.

Lighting was static and unevenly distributed across the stage.

A nice touch was the music during scene changes.

In the program notes for “Him & Jim,” it was stated, “In the profoundly troubling times in which we have suddenly found ourselves, wouldn’t it be nice if a man in sandals and wearing Roman Empire-era robes could shuffle into our lives and make everything nice again? Or make anything nice again?”

Yeats surely would agree.

The play’s run concluded March 18.