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Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009

Alan Atwood Stars in Acacia Theatre’s ‘Traveling Light’

Theater Review

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When Brookfield resident Alan Atwood talks about “traveling light,” he doesn’t mean taking along a carry-on bag instead of a piece of checked luggage. In this case, the “light” represents Christianity. Atwood stars in a one-man show, Traveling Light, produced by Acacia Theatre. The company is known for producing plays with Christian themes. This show, written by Lawrence G. Enscoe, opened Friday at Concordia University in Mequon.

Traveling Light is a series of vignettes about Jesus’ life told in “ordinary language.” As the play opens, we see Atwood in silhouette against a sunset-colored backdrop. He shares the stage with two stools and a large trunk. He sifts through the trunk until he finds a fisherman’s coat and knit cap. Thus he becomes Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter (a longshoreman with a Brooklyn accent) describes biblical stories in plain, workingman’s language. The dialogue is humorous, such as when Peter refers to another apostle as “Jimmy” (James). In order to maintain the show’s light touch, Atwood becomes other comical characters. Again, he heads to the trunk for more props. In seconds, he becomes Levi, a geeky tax collector; an impoverished, elderly Jewish widow; a Norwegian; and a stereotypical American tourist on a trip to the Holy Land. This guise includes a loud Hawaiian shirt, a dorky hat and binoculars. Elsewhere in the show, there are a few words from Herod as a Mafia boss, who reluctantly orders the beheading of St. John the Baptist. Atwood is mostly convincing in these incarnations. But more importantly, he seems to make a connection with the audience.

Atwood, a graduate of UW-Milwaukee’s acting program, co-founded Acacia Theatre Company in 1980.

The 90-minute show loosely recounts episodes from the Book of Mark. Since some of the show’s vignettes last only 20 seconds or so, the audience needs to be familiar with the characters that appear in this chapter of the Bible. Atwood succeeds in making the Bible’s legendary figures “come alive” for modern audiences. At times Traveling Light gets a bit goofy (one character calls Jesus on his cell phone), but maybe that’s the point. Atwood wants to make the audience laugh as well as think.

Acacia Theatre’s Traveling Light continues at the Todd Wehr Auditorium at Concordia University through Nov. 8.

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