There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Saint John’s was not just another gospel. Matthew’s, Mark’s, and Luke’s read like journalistic reports of events in the life of Jesus. But John wrote literature—evocative, nuanced stories of Jesus’ life and relationships with his disciples. In the Theater Alliance’s The Gospel of John, actor Brad Sherrill capitalizes on the book’s dramatic potential and creates a riveting one-man show. He recites the entire text verbatim, portraying Jesus, the people he met, and the evangelist’s narrative voice, replete with love, wisdom, and sorrow. The stories will be familiar to most people who went to Sunday school: the transformation of water into wine at Cana; the resurrection of Lazarus; the feeding of the multitudes; Jesus’s passion and resurrection. Sherrill addresses the audience members as whomever Jesus or John is addressing in the scripture. Early on, for example, we are the money-changers, and Sherrill scolds us for treating the temple like a market. Later, we are witnesses to a miracle, and Sherrill explains how we may ask for miracles of our own. Then we are Simon Peter, and Sherrill assures us, with tears in his eyes, that we’ll deny him three times before morning. When Sherrill speaks to us as John, we are the first-generation Christians, receiving reassurance that we have followed the right path. Under Scott Cowart’s direction, and with the help of Darryl Moran’s evocative lighting effects and a few simple props, Sherrill re-creates the gospel’s scenes around the spare black space of the H Street Playhouse. An upturned stool with a wooden bowl nestled in its legs becomes the well at Samaria. Water from the same bowl splashes onto the floor as the disciples cross the stormy sea, and Jesus later dips his hand into it to create the mud that cures a blind man. A worn trestle table with a stone placed on it stands as Lazarus’s tomb; later, Pilate sits atop it in judgment. Jesus could be a frustrating fellow to understand; in John, he describes himself as word, light, bread, water, a sheep gate, and a vine. Sherrill’s calling—the same as John’s—is to make clear that he was identifying himself as the son of God and to instill in his disciples both his love and his command that they love one another. His passionate performance and the simple beauty of the production should satisfy Christians wanting to hear the word, as well as anyone who loves storytelling. —Janet Hopf