COTTON PATCH GOSPEL, Provision Theater Company, at Breadline Theatre. This breezy, bright inaugural production by the Provision Theater Company offers a welcome alternative to Mel Gibson's controversial film. Jim Poole directs a toe-tapping take on the life and influence of Jesus, with a book by Tom Key and Russell Treyz and music and lyrics by Harry Chapin. As in the Clarence Jordan book on which the show is based, Jesus is born in a Georgia trailer and competes for followers with religious racketeers and crooked governors who allow the KKK to do its dirty work, ultimately lynching the savior.
As Matthew/Storyteller, Timothy Gregory is charming, clearly enjoying himself as he relates this sweet and witty story, which both delivers a "love the Lord" message and sharply takes on corporate greed, consumerism, and media hypocrisy. Changing character by shifting his tone, dialect, and physical mannerisms, Gregory is the main reason the show succeeds. Five talented musicians playing bluegrass-tinged tunes help tell the story, make transitions between the scenes, and invite the audience to have fun with this musical treat.