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Abraham’s Calling, TriArts, Inc., at Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, Baird Hall Theatre. This earnest opera-cum-Sunday-school-pageant fails on every level: intellectual, dramatic, even musical. Maybe it’s possible to understand conflict in the Middle East as the result of disputes over Abraham’s sacrifice of his son (Jews say it was Isaac, Muslims Ishmael), but that seems unlikely: the intifada is at best about more complicated ideology and at worst about power and land.
Even if we accept its simplistic central notion, the show still lacks a plot–relentless biblical chronology doesn’t qualify. Creator-director Andrew Park clearly intends to evoke religious ritual through repeating bits of song and dialogue, but succeeds in evoking only boredom. Some of the voices are very good, and the traditional liturgical music is excellent. But the contemporary pieces have lyrics like “I want to grow, I want to live, I want to share, I want to give” and are set to forgettable tunes that make “Day by Day” sound like an aria. A supersize puppet representing Babylon, into whose belly cast members disappear, provides one of the evening’s few high points, along with the 15-second dance with which Vayram Nyadroh as Hagar seduces Abraham, who’s garbed and coiffed to look like Jesus. Sadly, the show bears the hallmarks of Christian arrogance, specifically the conviction that Jews and Muslims are simply too stupid to work out their problems and need help from the enlightened West.