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God's Donkey 

Traveling Jewish Theater interprets the life of Moses

Wednesday, Nov 8 2000
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A Traveling Jewish Theater's reimagining of the life of Moses proves a true evening of contemporary sacrament (unlike, say, Corpus Christi). Director Corey Fischer and performers Eric Rhys Miller and Aaron Davidman collaborate with composer Daniel Hoffman (who plays violin, guitar, and percussion) to bring humor, taste, and talent to their lucid rendering of a complex relationship with God. On Richard Olmsted's abstract and deceptively expansive set, spattered with browns, beiges, oranges, and hints of red, Rhys Miller and Davidman use movement, song, and comedy to spin a new version of Genesis and Exodus. The props are minimal: rocks, a swath of burlap serving as a mother's skirt or an infant's swaddling clothes, a long bolt of blue cloth that flows from Moses' princely robes into a representation of the Nile, and wooden staffs, one of which transforms into a snake. Fischer and his co-creators focus on Moses' journey, and thus on his life. The Ten Commandments and the Golden Calf are obliquely mentioned. Davidman's Moses is a gentle, shy stammerer, chosen by God to do something for which he feels himself unfit. And Rhys Miller is astonishing. Whether portraying God (a sunglasses-wearing hepcat who sings both Hebrew songs and the blues), the imperious Pharaoh, a burning bush, a put-upon, skeptical slave building the Pyramids, or one of many others, his body radiates, his focus exact and consuming. Singing in Hebrew, his voice is ethereal and holy; growling out God's bluesy songs, he summons a deeper, more complicated energy. Hoffman's gorgeous music borrows from jazz, klezmer, folk, and avant-garde, creating a multitude of moods and emotions, as does Olmsted's graceful lighting. At play's end, Rhys Miller removes his glasses, no longer God but not quite man, and carries Moses' corpse on into the darkness. He could be representing faith and all its complications. It's breathtaking.

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Joe Mader

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