The Christian Bible says that Jesus was both man and God, but it doesn't really explore the human aspect of Christianity's namesake. COUNTER/Weight Theatre Lab hopes to explore that humanity during its stage production of The Last Temptation of Christ, adapted by a local playwright group collectively writing under the pseudonym A. Rhodes. It draws from both Nikos Kazantzakis' original 1955 novel and the 1988 film adaptation written by Paul Schrader.
According to producer and director Ethan Everhart, the play will focus on the humanity of Jesus by stripping down the sets to the bare minimum and avoiding Bronze-Age language.
"We've researched and replicated period-specific fabrics to ground the costumes in real life," he says, "[but] we're focusing on the acting, with minimal staging."
Everhart is aware that the story has a controversial history. The Martin Scorsese-directed film adaptation was boycotted by some for its portrayal of Jesus struggling with his lust for Mary Magdalene.
COUNTER/Weight newcomer Joe O'Rear plays the role of Jesus. Raised in Colorado Springs, he's sensitive to the play's contentious history.
"The production is neither pro- nor anti-religion," says O'Rear. "Jesus was fully human, and he was fully God. The play deals with the tension between the human and the divine." But whatever the play's themes, it's not just for the never-missed-Bible-study devout.
"Everyone in the cast is coming from a different place, with varying degrees of religiosity," adds O'Rear. "What it comes down to is looking at the question of Jesus' destiny from a human perspective. If you're Him, how much do you wish you knew about it? Would you have the courage to go through with it, if you did?"
"We're trying to be respectful of the source material," Everhart explains. Being respectful of people's beliefs is also a high priority for him, especially those of the cast. "Many in the cast have said [the production] has helped them in their own faith."
"This is about day-to-day people who have jobs, who eat, fight — all of that," says O'Rear. "The temptation is to be human, to deny fate. Temptation is normal, human, and perhaps even healthy... for someone else... someone who isn't also God."