March 13, 3018 by Dave Howell

“Him & Jim,” now being presented for the first time by the Crowded Kitchen Players at Bethlehem’s Ice House, is a comedic play that tells the story of Jesus showing up at a Lehigh Valley auto parts store and interacting with the owner and workers and their families.

The play, written by Charlie Barnett, an Easton high school grad, and directed by Ara Barlieb, can be safely described as quirky. And quite enjoyable.

It centers around owner Jim Carlyle (Brian Lichty) and employee Ralph Gervins (Ted Williams), who, along with Anthony (Scott VanNortwick), deal with customers throughout the day. Their lives are not great. Jim is coping with an impending divorce from his wife Cassie (Florence Taylor), while Ralph is estranged from his daughter Michelle (Lauri Beth McMackin).

One day Jesus (Brian Wendt) visits the shop, accompanied by unseen angels. He seems a bit odd to the trio. For one thing, he often expresses himself with the use of a lamb sock puppet, and he says his cell phone number is 2.

When the people at the auto shop use the abbreviated phone number, strange things happen. Ralph is connected to his daughter, who he has not heard from for two years, and Jim reaches a divorce lawyer.

Things both dramatic and comic go on from there, with an ending that does not quite resolve everything, just like in real life.

The stage has three sections. The parts store is on a raised platform to the right of the audience. There is a table to the left to represent a cafe where Ralph and Michelle meet, and an unadorned middle section where Jim interacts with his wife and children Evie (Carolyn Taylor) and Bobbi (Olivia Sullivan).

The acting is top notch. Lichty and Williams are very sympathetic and McMackin shows an appealing strength with her troubled character. Wendt is obviously having a lot of fun, deserving an award for “Best Over the Top Portrayal of a Major Religious Figure.” And the two kids are both charming and totally natural.

“Him & Jim” wisely avoids trying to answer any theological questions and, successfully, just tries to entertain.

“Him & Jim,” 8 p.m. March 16, 2 p.m. March 18, Ice House, Sand Island, Bethlehem. Tickets: $18; $14,seniors; $10, students. 610-395-7176, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

Dave Howell is a freelance writer.