The idea of sitting in a theatre for 90 minutes listening to one man recite the Gospel of Luke in the Elizabethan language of the King James Bible would seem to be a cure for insomnia, but actor Bruce Kuhn makes it a compelling evening of drama.
His touring schedule this year touched down in several venues in the diocese of Niagara in southern Ontario.
Mr. Kuhn’s initially-relaxed presence on stage sets a warm feeling for the show from the outset. A slim man of medium height with a shock of grey hair and large, expressive eyes, he strolls onto a bare stage containing only a chair, a podium and a water bottle. He introduces himself with a bit of information about his background – he is a veteran of the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville (Ky.), performed on Broadway in Les Miserables and in national tours of Chess and the Harry Chapin musical, Cotton Patch Gospel. As for his current feat of memorization, he cites British actor Alec McCowan’s performance of the King James version of the Gospel of Mark on Broadway as an inspiration.
Then, suddenly but smoothly, he is into the text of Luke. Taking the words at a fast clip, this ordinary-looking man in black t-shirt and dark grey pants uses an arsenal of face, voice and body skills to make the gospel come alive.
Using a body microphone, Mr. Kuhn athletically roams the stage and, at times, the auditorium. He sits on the stage to become a shepherd “abiding in the fields,” looking a little bored with the long night watch. When the text calls for a “multitude” of people, he jumps from the stage and turns his back to the audience, instantly drawing his viewers in as part of the crowd.
When Christ calls his disciples, Mr. Kuhn points to different parts of the audience, again dramatically drawing all into the story. He is not afraid to inject gentle humour into his performance – witness those bored shepherds – but areas that could be unintentionally comic are not, due to Mr. Kuhn’s passion for the material and creativity. Mr. Kuhn stages the crucifixion simply by standing on the chair and his exchange with “the good thief” is quite moving.
In a question-and-answer session after the performance, Mr. Kuhn notes that the show is an edited version of Luke, since presenting the full gospel would take three hours. While many are familiar with the gospel stories and message, few sit down to read an entire book in one go; Bruce Kuhn’s performance brings home to the viewer the full sweep of the Christian story in an especially potent way.