As far as Christian revivalist conversion concerts go, Revival
is surprisingly pleasant. Local folk band the Skidmore Bluffs
don Amish-style outfits to become the Roving Wheels of Christ, led by the de-frocked Reverend Isaac Noble (Josh Gulotta). With their Mumford-esque ballads, the Roving Wheels would fit in at any Portland open-mic night. This self-produced musical, part of the Fertile Ground festival
, is like theatrical Sunday school (it’s even held at a converted church in Northeast Portland), sardonically exploring the hypocrisy of modern faith with songs that pair Christ and cocaine.
It seems innocent enough until the animated redhaired pianist, Abner Billings (James Lawrence), whips out a saxophone and guitarist Saul (Andrew Fridae) starts crooning about “Moses the maniac.” This religious critique, though, proves entertaining but overzealous. Its Bible-thumping examination of the Good Book’s bloody and bodacious passages amuses, but if fails to provoke deep thought, and while a gauze-thin plotline runs through the show, it’s ultimately more of a concert than a piece of theater.
Even so, fans of boot-stompin’ southern gospel, religious quips and O Brother, Where Art Thou? won’t be disappointed. “The word of The Lord! Can you dig it?” Noble hollers between song lyrics and gospel readings. Holy communion, in the form of a baguette and two-buck Chuck, is provided mid-show. Hallelujah!
GO: Revival is at the Little Church, 5138 NE 23rd Ave. 7 pm Thursdays-Saturdays through Feb. 8. $10.
Click here to read more Fertile Ground diaries.