Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Cotton Patch Gospel

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Remounting this bluegrass take on the New Testament in the intimate Chicago Dramatists space only makes the charm of Timothy Gregory's performance more evident. His effortlessly joyful Matthew, who acts as the narrator, and quicksilver transformations into various characters--a cattle farmer, a crooked politician--are what make this re-envisioning of the Gospels of Matthew and John so entertaining. Based on a book by Clarence Jordan in which Jesus is born into the contemporary south, Tom Key and Russell Treyz's lighthearted, spirited show features Harry Chapin's music and lyrics, ably played here by an infectious five-piece band. The versatile Gregory takes us briskly from Jesus' birth in a trailer home to his Klan lynching with a sly wit and upbeat harmonizing that, under Jim Poole's direction, never undermine the script's dramatic moments. The spiritual message remains subtle amid the toe-tapping good nature of this fine Provision Theater Company production, bathed in Margaret Hartmann's warm lighting on Erin Miller's rustic set. Through 6/5: Thu 7:30 PM, Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM. Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago, 773-506-4429. $22; industry nights Thu 5/12 and 5/19.

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