'Him and Jim' an irreverent and wacky CKP comedy with Jesus, angels, and a talking lamb

Lehigh Valley Stage by Kathy McAuley

Charlie Barnett’s new play “Him and Jim,” a wacky comedy brought to us by Crowded Kitchen Players, has Jesus intervening in the lives of ordinary folk like Jim Carlyle, his family and his staff at Turbo Auto Parts.

Brian Wendt’s Jesus almost floats across stage, but he’s a big guy with a disheveled wig, designer socks and a cell phone, and the minute he appears he makes us realize that this is not exactly “the greatest story ever told.”

It’s not a religious tome, Barnett’s Jesus is played for laughs.

Although the players try to resolve their attitudes about this particular prophet, they never get very far. But this is a comedy, so who cares?

Barnett is a composer who has recently taken to writing plays. His first, “12Ness,” was premiered last year by CKP.

“Him and Jim” is a collaboration between Barnett and CKP co-founder Ara Barlieb who added two wingéd angels who silently and invisibly offer support, consolation and encouragement to mere mortals as they deal with life.

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As Jesus walks among his flock, he carries a lamb puppet who now and then offers a comment on the procedings. An angel (Kerri-leigh Taylor) tosses confetti across his path while a second (Paula Klein) follows, sweeping it all up.

Jim Carlyle (Brian Lichty) is a played as a hapless soul, trying to maintain his business and family with no cooperation from the fates.

He is beyond henpecked by his overbearing wife (Florence Taylor) whose dramatic anger nearly lights the Ice House on fire.

Her daughter – in the play and in life – is delightfully played by Carolyn Taylor, a 4th-grader at Allentown Arts Academy Elementary Charter School and a future comedic talent.

Ted Williams skillfully plays Ralph, a part-timer at the shop who is estranged from his adult daughter (Lauri Beth McMackin) and seems always on the verge of being overwhelmed. But Jesus figures out a way to reunite them and solve Michelle’s other problems, too.

The cast is rounded out by Scott VanNortwick as a harried clerk in the shop and Olivia Sullivan, Jim’s sassy teen-aged daughter who is certain that Jesus is out to scam her dad.

Like Jesus, the play meanders through these lives, solving little problems and causing little confusions.

That the ending is happy is not the point: It’s the divine interventions that make the difference.

Characters come and go, interacting with Jesus and each other, until eventually everybody finds their way back to center stage for the resolution. Not an adventurous plot, but an amusing 90 minutes in comedy theatre.

One of the joys of this production is the old-timey gospel music that Barlieb chose to surround the show.

Barlieb said a principal goal of CKP is to give audiences an opportunity to see original and seldom-produced plays and has written a number of his own.

“Him and Jim” is CKP’s 75th production since its founding in 2000. CKP co-founder Pamela Wallace frequently appears in these productions, though this time it is only her voice-over helping set the scenes.

“Him and Jim,” March 8-18 at the Ice House, 56 River St. River St., Bethlehem; 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; $18 adults, $14 seniors, $10 students.

CK Players: 610-395-7176; ckplayers@outlook.com; www.ckplayers.com.