A Bob Forsaken Time

By Alan Hustak on February 17, 2014

Lucinda Davis is God in the Centaur Theatre’s  existential  drama The Book of Bob, and she’s divine. 

The premiere of  Arthur  Holden’s  updated interpretation of the strained Old Testament parable, The Book of Job,  running until March 2,   is a toute de force for Davis  who  is an astonishing  presence throughout the 90 minute show.   If, as  scripture  insists,   we are  created in the image of God,  Davis seizes the conceit  and infuses  ten different characters with her phenomenal  talent.  

The play is  about a  “perfect but upright,”  McGill University   professor  who, unlike the biblical Job,   doesn’t believe in God  even  when God arrives,  first,  as an irritating student who undermines his  Dostoevsky lecture  then proceeds  to  wreak   havoc with his life. This God  appears and disappears throughout the evening  like a fragmented nightmare.   The fundamental problem with the script, of course, is if you don’t have faith how can that faith be tested;  how can you abandon what you don’t have?

Ron  Lea  as  the  tweedy,   middle-aged  atheist who is  subjected to the suffering is a standout.   But even with  his crusty  demeanour  and  authoritative  voice,  Lea  is no match for God.   He discovers his son is a drug dealer,   his  wife is diagnosed with colon cancer   then his father commits suicide   (just as the playwright’s celebrated  father, lawyer, MNA and boulevardier,  Richard Holden did eight years ago). So, under stress  this modern day Job we are told,  “hopes to deserve forgiveness in time.” 

Ellen David’s has made a  flawless  directorial debut at the Centaur.   The multi-media  concept  strengthens  the perhaps  overly-literate  script.    Benoit Beaulieu’s cinematography,  Patrick Andrew  Boivin and  George  Allister’s  video design and  James Lavoie’s set and costumes  are, quite frankly,  a miracle.

Book_of_Bob.jpgIn spite of its admirable  production values  there is an unsettling edge to the evening. The script is often more  psycho-babble than theological.   What’s missing is a resolution.   The  moral  issues  in the Book of Job are  black and white;  the Book of Bob trivializes scripture.   It has an ambiguous, humanist ,  take-it-or -leave it ending.   Bob, we are told  wasn’t, in spite of his suffering,  inspired to make changes.  “ He didn’t form a resolution to lead a better life, he was just the same old Bob.  But unhappier.   But unhappiness too, in the right amount at the  right time,”   we are assured, “ can begin the process, the life long process of setting a person free.”    

Bob is chastened a bit and seeks professional therapy.  Apparently the moral of the play  is that if the people we cry out to in our misery offer a little kindness, then perhaps some good will come of it. Unlike the Biblical Job who  swears by God in spite of the pain he has endured, this  Bob  just swears.


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