Theater review: ‘Jesus Ride’ at Son of Semele
From the 33 biopics he's studied quite, um, religiously, writer-performer Mike Schlitt reached an inescapable conclusion about the way the story of Jesus has been portrayed on the silver screen: “The guy had father issues.”
With ample supporting evidence from movie clips ranging from camp to classic, Schlitt’s funny and slyly perceptive multimedia solo show, “Jesus Ride,” recounts his first-hand experience with the crass commercialization of theology as a roundabout way of coming to terms with father issues of his own.
The son of a successful TV writer, the self-described “Jew-ish” but unapologetically secular Schlitt weaves his lifelong passion for movies through an engaging narrative about his unlikely post-production job (for which he was totally unqualified) at the newly opened Sony Pictures High Definition Center. His first project at the short-lived facility involved a wooden, vacuous retelling of the New Testament for the video portion of a motion control ride installation in a religious theme park (hence the monologue’s title).
Schlitt doesn’t cut a particularly slick or magnetic figure, but his disarming nebbishy persona draws us into director (and fellow Actors’ Gang veteran) Tracy Young’s breezy, well-paced staging. From his unique perch at the intersection of Tinseltown, theatre and comparative religion, Schlitt’s wry observations cover thematically related industry foibles (megalomaniacal directors and Jewish producers who promote anti-Semitic stereotypes in Jesus films), philosophical speculation (including a clever rebuttal to Pascal’s wager on God’s existence), and the realities of assimilation and compromise, culminating in a touching story about his terminally ill dad.
Schlitt readily concedes his is hardly the Greatest Story Ever Told, but it’s nonetheless a good one with a happy ending: He’s still working in post-production, which is about the best kind of afterlife a Hollywood non-believer could wish for.
–- Philip Brandes
“Jesus Ride,” Son of Semele Theater, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 8. $15. (213) 351-3507 or www.sonofsemele.org. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Photo: Mike Schlitt. Credit: Matthew McCray.