The Lizard of Tarsus | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Lizard of Tarsus


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The Lizard Of Tarsus, Slimtack Theatre Company, at the Side Studio. Jim Grimsley's play is so steeped in mysticism that he could be either a burning zealot or a hard-core atheist. In this speculative fable, a tourist's casual remarks at a Jerusalem fruit market land him before the local authorities. His interrogator, Paul, insists that he was once personally acquainted with the man, J., leading the two to wage a battle for the truth--or at least the last word.

It seems Paul is the apostle of the same name--but how does he come to be running the Sanhedrin in 2000? Why does his prisoner first deny that he's Jesus, then assume that role with neither explanation nor acknowledgment? And what are we to make of the third character, a secretary who lost her powers of speech under curious circumstances? Or of the title reptile, whose fate prompts a disclaimer in the program to the effect that no animals were harmed? (Audiences may be more disturbed by the onstage incineration of three authentic-looking dollar bills.)

If Grimsley's point is that the Gospels have been corrupted by theological spin doctors, he takes far too long to make it. And while the Slimtack Theatre Company actors try valiantly to flesh out their nebulous characters, director Michael Rice seem unwilling to take the risks necessary to forge a nice, sweaty, homoerotic Sunday-school fantasy. The result is satire too inoffensive to make any lasting impression.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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