Exit to Eden 

Playwright Paul Rudnick doesn't sweat the Eighth Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," in The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. Now playing at Essential Theatre's Festival of New American Theatre, Fabulous takes its inspiration from the conservative nostrum "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," and offers a boy-on-boy version of the first chapters of Genesis.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam (Charles Swint) and Steve (Christopher Rae) meet, fall in love and name God's creations: "Rock." "Abs." "First base." When Adam's curiosity casts them out from paradise, they meet the first lesbians, butch Jane (scene-stealing Lesley Gray) and ethereal Mabel (Megan Hayes). Fabulous' funny first half-hour affectionately plays into gay stereotypes, like a sort of "Queer Eye for the Old Testament Guy." The lesbians invent the wheel and the lever, while the gay men combine shampoo and conditioner.

The gay Bible conceit grows thin when Noah's ark becomes a swinging sex cruise, complete with bestiality gags that would tickle Rick Santorum. The second act abandons the Good Book entirely to depict a Christmas party of modern New Yorkers, and finds comic relief in such familiar figures as a perky Mormon (LeeAnna Lambert) and a go-go dancer in elf's clothing (Larry Davis).

Rudnick raises the challenge of religious belief in the face of human suffering, but undercuts his own serious themes with the mechanical quality of his one-liners. He won't let three minutes pass without an arch remark. Essential's four lead actors warmly portray their roles and relationships, but Rudnick shows little faith in his audience -- or himself -- with his Fabulous Bible study.


Essential Theatre presents The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told through March 7 at Dad's Garage Top Shelf, 280 Elizabeth St. 8 p.m. Wed.-Sat., and 3 p.m. Sun. $15. 404-523-3141. www.essentialtheatre.com.


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