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By Thomas Bradshaw
The Flea Theater
41 White St.
Box office: (866) 811-4111

In our era, the Book of Job has become one of the most commented on parts of the Hebrew Bible. That’s because it’s the most fundamentally modern episode in holy scripture—the one tale in which man dares to hold the jealous, petty, and unjust Old Testament God to account for his cruel and arbitrary behavior. Even glib glosses of this story usually don’t falsify its outrageous essence: to test the faith of Job, his most loving and obedient servant, God makes him the object of a callous wager with Satan, who is given license to wreck his home, plunder his wealth, ruin his health, and kill his family. All the while, Job keeps asking why and insisting he did nothing to deserve all the afflictions.

Thomas Bradshaw’s hour-long Job is the glibbest of dramatic glosses. Blunt, crude, explicit and deliberately offensive, it’s like a version of the tale cobbled together from can-you-top-this? paraphrases and exaggerations of the most morally offensive episodes. The biblical Job is sickened with skin sores, but Bradshaw’s is castrated and blinded, stage blood spurting everywhere. The biblical Job’s ten children are killed by invaders, but the daughter of Bradshaw’s Job, in an excruciatingly lingering scene, is raped and killed by her brother, not in that order. Bradshaw is a professed provocateur. He boasts about writing without subtext and enjoys chasing the moving targets of offensiveness and obscenity. He can also be very funny. The portrait here of God and Satan as glazed-eyed, thick-headed brothers whose moral fiber is indistinguishable—they’re like a pair of rich, bored serial killers—is priceless. Ditto the portraits of Jesus and Dionysus as dim-witted, wet-behind-the-ears squabbling siblings in electric blue golf shirts.

The Bats, the Flea Theatre’s young and spunky resident company, know just what to do with Bradshaw’s foul-mouthed, tongue-in-cheek insouciance, and their dedication to this raunchy material is the key to the pleasure of this show. They speak the passages Bradshaw quotes directly from the Bible, for instance, with the same mixture of earnest bluster and deadpan ease they use for his densely profane original dialogue. They wear their ridiculously trite “ancient” togas and rags as if they were spiffy uniforms. Bradshaw’s Job isn’t exactly clever. Nor is its critique of the source material particularly original. But the play (directed by Benjamin H. Kamine) is lucid, impertinent and fun in a sick sort of way, and it offers a fine opportunity to sample this playwright’s weirdly compelling repugnant sensibility.



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