Norman's Ark

The Old Testament is back in another musical, this one by Jerome Kass and Glen Roven, nicely staged by Peter Schneider. Though this Trojan Horse has been touring in various incarnations since at least 2002, it may be the biggest local theatrical event since Val Kilmer parted the Red Sea at the Kodak Theatre in 2006. A cast of 200, including local gospel choirs and dancers, and a bevy of cherubic kids playing the animals (in Ann Closs-Farley's wonderful costumes) provide backup for the story of some family stuck on their roof during a flood in the middle of the country. Schoolteacher Norman (the appealing Philip Casnoff) — in a red cardigan, of course — knows his Shakespeare but fumbles any practical task, which earns him the derision of his two sons (B.J. Wallace and Noah Galvin, in fine performances) and the sympathy of his very young daughter, Jenny (Tiffany Espensen). One of the boys has a good line about not wanting to be negative, and therefore describing the house as being "half full." Norman's wife, Alice (Karole Forman, great voice), is black, Norman and their sons are white, and the daughter is Asian. All (or much) of humanity is on this roof, you see. On reading the program note that "we have been inspired ... to encourage our audience to take the message of Hope, Love & Survival," I felt my intestines start to tangle into extremely small, tight knots, causing painful contractions accompanied by layers of perspiration. God (Dawnn Lewis) makes an appearance in a white robe. She sings very well indeed, and expresses annoyance at what we're doing to her planet. Tiffany asks why, as a child, she should be punished for that, and God winks something about mysterious ways. Norman's contribution to the crisis consists of retelling the transporting legend of Noah's Ark (accompanied by amazing lighting effects). For no reason whatsoever, the family come to respect Norman within his fiction, until they're rescued. (That must be the "Hope, Love & Survival" part.) Quite often, though, we're not rescued. That's also a valuable lesson for children, which can be taught without provoking paranoia. Despite its noble gathering of community participants, who perform with talent and open hearts, the project itself fails to draw a crucial distinction between compassion and delusion. Tuesdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Starts: May 28. Continues through June 8, 2008


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