“How to Write a New Book for the Bible” at Seattle Rep

Well, yes there are references to the Bible here, but this isn’t exactly a “religious” play. Oh it’s about faith, but it’s mostly an emotionally rich, marvelously funny, and insightful exploration of family life—your family and my family as exemplified by playwright Bill Cain’s own family.

Bill Cain is a Jesuit priest who, as his order prescribes, is very much of the lay world. This autobiographical play takes place in his widowed mother’s house. He moved back in when the family learned she had terminal cancer. Through flashbacks, diary entries, encounters, and soliloquies the lives of this family emerge.

“Fights were the sacrament of our family,” he says. And they do fight and swear, but they always make up, and they never stop loving one another. It’s all about love, what parents do for their children because of love, how children respond to love, about unconditional love as well as conditional love. It’s about the fact that there are always things we would have done differently, about how we try and how we fail. It’s about being furious with a loved one and cherishing that same irritating person. It’s about the betrayal one feels at death.

Kent Nicholson directs the production that was developed in association with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The terrific cast is new to Seattle. I only hope they’ll come back. Linda Gehringer as the mother transforms herself in the wink of an eye. At one moment she’s a severely debilitated cancer patient then suddenly she’s a young and flirty newly married woman, a frustrated mother, or a grieving widow. You can’t help adoring her. Tyler Pierce as Bill carries the biggest load in this four-actor work, and in a packed theatre you have the feeling he’s chatting just with you.

Despite the fact that the play is a bit overlong, it’s a powerful piece, and this is an outstanding production.

Through Feb. 5 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St. Seattle (206-443-2222 or www.seattlerep.org)

Leave a Reply