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The Gospel According to St Luke
24/9/2006
New Sunday Times
STRUCK BY A GOOD ACTOR
By Nisha Sabanayagam

I learnt about the life of Jesus through the simple stories, accompanied by the many coloured pictures, told at Sunday School.

After those cute little stories, trying to read the Scripture - especially when you are not a Christian - got a bit too heavy for me.

So in many ways, I was the perfect person - a practicing Hindu who went to Sunday School and found it hard to read the Bible - to review Bruce Kuhn's monologue on The Gospel According To St Luke, currently playing at the Actor's Studio.

I went in to watch the one-man show with an open mind, especially since someone told me I could leave before the end of the play if I found it boring.

And guess what? I came out inspired. Artistically and maybe even a little spiritually inspired as well.

This could not be helped - Kuhn's Jesus is so calm and radiated such an aura of trust, it moved me a little, methinks.

Kuhn got great reviews for this show in the US and here in little ole Bangsar, he lived up to his reputation - big-time.

He breathed life into all his characters but more importantly, he gave them attitude.

A perfect example of this was when the angel of god appears for the third or fourth time in the gospel, and the people are afraid - yet again (but think about it, can you blame them)?

At this point, Kuhn ingests his "Fear not, I am a messenger of God" with just the right touch of resigned frustration that you could almost hear the angel think, "Oh come on you people, I'm one of the good guys ok, isn't it obvious?"

It was a 90-minute on the simplest of stage sets - a bench and a rostrum and Kuhn himself dressed in khaki pants and khaki green T-shirt. But in that time, you were right there with Jesus, and Mary and all the rest of them, from the woman who anoints his feet with perfumed oil to all the disciples and the disbelievers.

At one point in the gospel, Satan places Jesus on a "high place" and practically offers him the world. Such is the power of Kuhn's ability to invoke imagery with his actions and acting style that I swear you could almost see the clouds go by as Jesus says "It is written, worship the Lord your god and serve only him."

Quite the cool dude, our Jesus; and quite the amazing actor, our Mr Kuhn, who has made me remember the scene as if there were two people on stage although it was only he that played both the roles.

Kuhn kicked off the show with a brief humorous introduction about the play itself and melts into the gospel with no warning whatsoever - so one minute, it's everyday English, the next, its Scripture. He does this switch so well that, for a minute, it's like someone switched the language selection on the DVD player.

Asked at the end of the show why he did this, he said: "Just to be tricky".

Kuhn's sense of humour bloomed in the question-and-answer session at the end of the show, where he relaxed with a bottle of beer.

The actor told the almost-full house that he was quite religious himself and this belief was further strengthened after doing the show more times than he could remember.

If you want the adult version of Sunday school, I'd vote this the best classroom in town. It's also good theatre.