HOW TO WRITE A NEW BOOK FOR THE BIBLE a Jesuit/secular sermon

(l to r) Linda Gehringer, Leo Marks, Aaron Blakeley and Tyler Pierce star in the world premiere of Bill Cain’s How to Write a New Book for the Bible at Berkeley Rep.Photo courtesy of

HOW TO WRITE A NEW BOOK FOR THE BIBLE by Bill Cain, directed by Kent Nicholson. . Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley. (510) 647-2949.

HOW TO WRITE A NEW BOOK FOR THE BIBLE a Jesuit/secular sermon

Author Bill Cain the winner two years in a row of the prestigious Sternberg Award for the brilliant Equivocation and the gripping 9 Circles, both performed at Marin Theatre Company (MTC) graces the boards this year with a very personal How to Write a New Book for the Bible. Berkeley Rep has mounted a stunning production of Cain’s “How to” play on the intimate Thrust Stage that certainly will garner rave reviews. Oddly, the play received a delayed standing ovation unlike the instantaneous eruption that greeted Anna Deavere’s Let Me Down Easy.

Both Cain’s play and Deavere’s monolog with visual projections had their origin in diaries dealing with death. Deavere’s diaries consisted of a 10 year journal interviewing people and recording in their own words how they handle the inevitable euphemistic “last days.” Cain’s diary is a record of his personal experience of moving in with his mother who has six months to live and one may feel like a voyeur thus explaining the delayed accolade of a standing ovation.

The play is an unabashed love story that he has dedicated to his older brother Pete. It is also an extended sermon defining the Bible as a series of stories about families and the author insists that any new book for the Bible should be a family oriented one. Unlike the dysfunctional families in the Bible, he gives examples of a few; his new book will be about his “functional family.” And so it is.

Jesuit Priests are noted for their work in education as well being evangelistic. Cain, himself a Jesuit, threads the fine line between the two, and comes out a winner with his balanced scenes when he, at times dons his robes and quickly returns to a secular mode. His superb cast is the epitome of ensemble acting and the marvelous direction by Kent Nicholson (who directed 9 Circles at MTC) is astounding. The brilliance of the cast and direction are matched by the stunning impressionistic set (Scott Bradley) with atmospheric lighting (Alexander V. Nichols) and sound (Matt Starritt). This world premiere is a co-production with Seattle Repertory Theatre and they would be wise to import it intact, including the actors.

Tyler Pierce as Bill Cain the narrator radiates humanity, frustration and piety with equal professionalism giving a well rounded performance. One might suggest the number of times he stretches his arms in a Christ-like pose could be limited. Linda Gehringer as the independent minded mother, a closet cigarette smoker with an addiction of TV sports will steal your heart as she fights through pain and infirmity. She alone is worth the price of admission.

The play is non-linear as the narrator moves back in forth in time to round out the motivation and characteristics of the father Paul (Aaron Blakely) and brother Pete (Leo Marks). They play multiple roles, with various ages, of those friends surrounding the family including the doctors. They display great acting ability when they do switch characters giving verisimilitude to each role.

Bill Cain’s writing is a marvel and he is the shining star of present day playwrights. I am almost certain How to Write a New Book for the Bible will be a finalist for this years American Critics Association’s Sternberg Award. Running time two hours and 20 minutes including and intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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