FRINGE 2018 REVIEW: 'The Gospel of Barabbas'

A sketch-comedy-based farce that follows the unlikely birth and excessively ridiculous mishaps of Barabbas, a secondary character in the Christ story

click to enlarge "The Gospel of Barabbas" - Photo: Jeff Burkle
Photo: Jeff Burkle
"The Gospel of Barabbas"

The Gospel of Barabbas, presented by Hugo West Theatricals at Memorial Hall, is a sketch-comedy-based farce that follows the unlikely birth and excessively ridiculous mishaps of the titular Barabbas, a secondary character in the Christ story. If you think this echoes the irreverent path of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, you would be close to right — though the style of humor is more sophomoric and definitely secondary Second City.

Director Mike Sherman keeps the scenes and action moving along quickly enough to get to the jokes that work and slip past the ones that don’t. The comic actors who play multiple roles throughout have a good sense of timing and pace, and they drive the show with the understanding that this kind of material is both hit and miss — as well as hit and run.

Rory Sheridan plays Barabbas with a clueless, amoral loutishness that makes him extremely laughable and appropriately unlovable. Maggie Lou Rader is cast as both his mother Blanche early in the story, and later as his girlfriend, Trudy — who also happens to be Jesus’ sister. Along the way we meet a half-naked John the Baptist (called JTB at spots and played by Rodger Pille), a pig possessed by Satan named Manuel (Mike Dennis) and a sole Roman soldier (Randy Lee Bailey), who seems to do all of the empire’s dirty work.

It’s all random and raucous and has the energy of improv, which carries the improbable story forward, even with its easy jokes and reliance on anachronisms to get a jolt and chortle out of the audience. The capacity crowd I sat with loved it. If you like your religious satire sassy and SNL-style, you probably will too.

The Cincinnati Fringe Festival runs through June 10. Find showtimes, tickets and more info here.

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