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Hire Power, Hodar Productions, at Strawdog Theatre Company. Though the premise is inviting enough--a born-again millionaire hires an ad agency to promote the Bible--Hire Power could easily have turned into a one-gag sketch. But playwright Marya Smith takes her subject seriously, and with a minimum of biblical citation (none of the hypesters sees any reason to read the product) and no more irreverence than you'd find in any scripture-study class, her parable reaffirms the good book's power to benefit humanity while cautioning that the way of the truly righteous is fraught with hazards.

Far from a sugary tract fit only for the choir, this gentle sitcomish satire will nevertheless likely attract countless church groups. But director Nicole Mischler and her cast also give the script sufficient professional polish to camouflage its awkward spots: a drag turn that borrows heavily from Dana Carvey's church lady, an "astonishing" resolution we see coming for a full 30 minutes, and the implausible assumption that even citizens as secularized as the Jonatom ad-agency employees could be completely ignorant of the Bible. With some editing, however--mostly elimination of the obvious literary devices extending the play to feature length--this uplifting comedy has potential: the Golden Rule is still a sure sell. --Mary Shen Barnidge

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