Review: Reduced Shakespeare's 'Bible' for dummies _ in 90 funny minutes

If you liked the show, you should tell your friends — “both of them.”

If you didn't, “talk to your minister.” That's the advice from the stage at the conclusion of the Reduced Shakespeare Company's “The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged).” A revival (not in the sense of an evangelical meeting) opened in San Francisco’s Marines Memorial Theater on Friday.

It is not for the faint of heart, the pious of disposition, the mistrustful of audience participation, or the mirth-deprived.

This RSC is somewhat younger than its acronymic relation, the Royal Shakespeare Company (founded in 1879), but in local terms, it's been going on pretty much forever. One of the 1995 “Bible” authors, Adam Long, was actually present at the creation — a score and six years ago.

Yes, the multi-company, global, excessively famous enterprise that Reduced is today, was bornat the Renaissance Fair in 1981. Austin Tichenor, “Bible” coauthor and one of the opening night's vibrantly vigorous trio, emulating a cast of thousands, has “local” writ large, claiming to be a fifth-generation San Franciscan, born — thoughtfully and poignantly — on the 54th anniversary of the 1906 quake.

A stalwart cast member, Reed Martin — effectively portraying Samson after his traumatic and total loss of hair — is a UC-Berkeley grad, and yet he exhibits something approaching a sense of humor; he joined RSC in 1989.

Cast member No. 3 (among seven actors who alternate) on Friday was Dominic Conti, from nearby Chicago.

The 90-minute show (plus intermission) encompasses all — from God's “serious case of the in-the-beginning-blues” (not quite satisfied after the sixth day), to a discussion of the “plicable in the inexplicable,” to the bewildering location of God's Chosen People in the one spot of the Middle East without oil.

Intertwined with the great themes of the Old Testament (Act I) and the New Testament (Act II) are perspicacious and often pervicacious references to the recent oil spill in the Bay, the coming “four more years of Gavin Newsom,” the brain of George W. Bush, and those straightforward policy statements by Hillary Rodham Clinton. And more, much more, in this Cirque du Lunatique extravaganza. Do they also manage to cover all of the Bible? Yes, every blessed chapter!

About the justly dreaded audience participation bit, the last refuge of thespian scoundrels, it involves Noah, the flood and pairs of animals (that's where the audience comes in) and a discreet spraying of the auditorium to create a historically more realistic milieu. And yet, there is no need for umbrellas and galoshes. Just don't be late or you'll never hear the end of it from the easily-offended actors.

Indeed, the trio should practice what they preach as the Way of Faith: believe in peace and love or youwill burn in hell for eternity.

IF YOU GO

The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)

Presented by Reduced Shakespeare Company

Where: Marines Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St. (at Mason Street), San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday: 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday; closes Jan. 6 

Tickets: $45 to $60

Contact: (415) 771-6900 or www.ticketmaster.com.

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