Yesterday, Drew and I went to see How to Write a New Book for the Bible, by Bill Cain, at Berkeley Rep. I worked with Bill on two shows at Marin Theatre Company – Equivocation and 9 Circles. (Kent Nicholson, who directed How to Write a New Book…, also directed 9 Circles. Kent and Bill are great together – I think that this play wouldn’t have been as good under another director’s hand.)
Bill was a very active part of both of MTC’s rehearsal processes, and consequently we spent a lot of time together. He is a very sweet and very quirky guy, and was always willing to talk to me about whatever – writing, theatre, etc – and after one conversation about self-editing, he showed me a draft copy of How to Write a New Book…, and the ridiculous amounts of notes he scribbles on every single page. I really liked working with him.
I don’t know what I was expecting from How to Write a New Book…, really – I knew the show was about the death of his mother and that it was highly autobiographical. Bill is a Jesuit priest, and religion is always a main character in his shows.
I’ve never seen a show at Berkeley Rep before. First of all, I loved the theatre – it was their thrust stage, which is a really interesting space. At about 5 minutes til curtain, the house manager (?) came in and announced the whole space, “Feel free to scoot inwards for a better seat,” and then Drew and I watched a bunch more people come in, and we decided that that announcement was the worst idea ever.
As for the show itself…it was about the death of his mother, and it was highly autobiographical. It created a lot of feelings in me. Feelings about writing, about religion, about family, about theatre, about God, about life, about being in rehearsal with Bill and hearing pieces of these anecdotes. I sort of loved the use of the small set, and the staging. The actors (2 playing themselves through the whole thing, and 2 playing multiple characters) were stellar.
There was a Bible passage that was repeated several times throughout the play – I’m not sure of the speaker or the location. But I believe it’s Peter or Paul, and it’s along the lines that “All things come together for the greater good.” (Uncle Pastor, help with this? Book of Acts, maybe?) In the play, Bill (the character – but also sort of the writer) repudiates this. I personally tend to think that all things do work together and work out – but I know that Bill would argue with me on that, and have lots of good examples and probably Bible verses to back it up. So I probably wouldn’t start that argument.
How to Write a New Book for the Bible is only playing through Nov 20th. I fully recommend it to anyone who can go in the next week.
We’ve seen a lot of theatre over the last 6 weeks. I probably walked out of this one with the most residual feelings at the end. Highest commendation?