Jeremiah Gamble tackles both the historical and spiritual sides of Jesus' final days in the ambitious and largely successful Kingdom Undone, which delves deeply not only into the minds of the characters, but also the politics that swirled around Jerusalem during that famed Passover.
The ambition sometimes overwhelms the resources of the company, but director Jeffrey S. Miller keeps the proceedings largely on task over the course of the three hours, providing some unexpected emotional moments, and even touches of humor, along the way to the crucifixion and the resurrection.
From the outset, Gamble (who also plays Jesus) shows that the underpinnings of the story are as important as the eventual end. We first meet Judas (the deep-voiced Dustin Bronson) helping those in the market pay the tax collector. It's clear that his vision of Jesus as "king" differs from his teacher. Judas sees it as a physical kingdom on Earth. One that will toss off the shackles of the Roman oppressors.
It's his choices that drive the story, taking the right action for all the wrong reasons, leading to Jesus' arrest and trial in the belief that he will reveal himself as the true son of God and save himself.
Gamble's Jesus is wracked by doubt and fear as the events move on; he clearly knows what the real plan is for the promised kingdom. It's a performance that provides some of the strongest moments of the night, not just in his times of doubt, but his gentle humor with the disciples or a moving bit near the end when he shows them all what awaits them: a world where the messiah is willing to wash the feet of all those who follow him, man and woman.
With 16 actors, four musicians and a lot of story to cover, there's great ambition onstage. When it all comes together, such as the musical interludes created by Gamble and his wife, Vanessa (who also plays Magdelena), it can make for riveting theater. Other moments seem to be as much as getting the story from point a to point b without adding a lot of impact to the overall emotional life of the piece. Some of this comes in the political machinations that occur behind the scenes, which, in the end, are not as important in the final conclusion of the story.
IF YOU GO:
The Southern Theater 1420 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis
Through April 8
For tickets and information, call 612.340.0155 or visit online