He’s had a pair of educated college professors rape a 9-year-old. He’s had a contemporary German Nazi digitally penetrate his paraplegic sister in the bathtub so she could reach orgasm. And now Thomas Bradshaw, the so-called “provocateur” is taking on the Old Testament. Part of it, anyway.
The playwright’s newest work, a production of the Flea Theater directed by Benjamin Kamine, is an adaptation of the biblical Book of Job. But don’t expect an earthquake, a Divine Wind, or boils. No, this Job is subjected to atrocities in Bradshaw’s signature fashion. If you’re faint of heart (or new to the author’s oeuvre), it ain’t pretty. But if you are, the tests of faith that God and Satan place on the titular righteous man are graphic, but surprisingly tame, comparatively. And just so fuckin’ smart.
In the biblical text, no real explanation is given as to why God and Satan choose to torture this seemingly well-intentioned man into using God’s name in vain. Bradshaw doesn’t, either. God and Satan (the hilarious Ugo Chukwu and Stephen Stout, respectively) are just slightly classier than the kind of callous guys you’d expect to see at a Sunday football house party eating pork rinds and cracking jokes. Their bet about Job, which they gleefully watch with God’s sons Jesus and Dionysus (Grant Harrison and Eric Folks, equally funny), seems nothing more than a parlor game to pass the time until the next one.
Job is played by the emotionally potent, physically imposing Sean McIntyre. McIntyre expertly charts the character’s fall from grace as his children die, his balls are cut off, and his friends desertion when they’re unable to take any more of his whining. The actor is just as easily able to rise up again when God fixes it all, and Job becomes an even more righteous man in a brief and fascinating epilogue that is the only complete deviation from the biblical text.
The 21-member company, all of whom are members of the Flea’s acting troupe The Bats, are collectively strong, and young enough for the work to make an even greater impact. Particular standouts among the ensemble are Jaspal Binning, Edgar Eguia, and Jennifer Tsay (as Job’s children), as well as Ivano Pulito, Alex Coelho, and Layla Khoshnoudi. Kamine, a resident director at the Flea, keeps the piece briskly paced (it clocks in at just over 60 minutes), including an extended dance break, and pauses that were just long enough to get a handful of nervous titters from the audience. Equally impressive was Michael Wieser’s scarily realistic fight direction and Justin Tyne’s make-up and special effect (read: blood spurts) design.
Bradshaw brilliantly uses incestuous necrophilia, castration, and a profoundly well-placed fart joke to bring Job’s story into the theatrical realm. Punchy, intelligent, deliberately anachronistic dialogue places the work firmly in the now, despite being set in 513 BC, with characters costumed in togas and tunics (nicely designed by Ashley Farra). In reconciling itself with the past and the present, Job’s story is made all the more immediate.