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The Gospel According To Josh – Light On The Gospel, Heavy On The Josh (Midtown International Theatre Festival)

by Karen Tortora-Lee on July 19, 2010

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Gospel According To Josh

Looking to hire Josh Rivedal for your next show but can’t get a hold of his resume or reel?  Look no further than The Gospel According To Josh - in one fast-moving hour you’ll see Josh run through his catalog of imitations, hear him sing songs both secular and sacred, and see him show his emotional range which starts off as lively stand up comic and ends as bereaved son.  Step right up, folks, and you’ll see Josh juggle it all.  Is he good at it?  You betcha.  Is this an entertaining hour?Undoubtedly.  But the main  thread of the story – Josh’s strange, complicated, ultimately heartbreaking relationship with his father – frays as it strains to contain the overflow of personalities, imitations, anecdotes and song stylings – much the way an above-ground pool buckles when presented with that one last kid hell bent on cannonballing into the deep.  All of a sudden there’s just one too many pair of water wings in the pool . . . and similarly Gospel has a few too many distractions that detour from what could ultimately be a very strong piece.

Rivedal (under the direction of Josh Gaboian) scarcely takes a breath as he deftly uses ever tick-tock of his one-plus hour to take the audience on a journey which begins with his born-again Baptist childhood in New Jersey (Jersey – who knew?) and ends with the big question mark left in the wake of his father’s unnerving passing.  More an amalgam of amusing anecdotes than a true dramatic arc, this show still undeniably showcases Josh’s comic timing, his smoky smooth singing voice and his knack for imitating the people we’ve all crossed paths with and recognize from our own lives.  To call this (as the blurb does) A Thirty Character Twelve Song Comedic Tour de Force is a bit of a cheat however – at this rapid pace some characters stay front and center for less time than it takes to change the virtual channel.

How Rivedal’s father was responsible for –  yet completely opposed to – yet also strangely proud of – his son’s acting career is the meaty bit of the show and doesn’t need the bells and whistles of Josh contorting from one supporting player into another in order to hit the mark.  In fact, nothing is more compelling than when Rivedal describes how his father broke his own code to watch old Ed Sullivan shows on video tape.  When Josh – stunned and mesmerized by what he saw  - asked if he could watch too, his dad agreed  . . . but only if they watched in silence and kept it a secret from the church.

“Through all of that, my dad and I just sat there in silence watching those brilliant performers. And after it was over we both looked up and looked at each other for a second, each of us wanting to describe how we felt about what we just saw. But nothing was said and we both looked away, got up and never spoke about it again.”

It was this revelation that made me lean forward in my seat, made me want more –  driving down this path a  little farther would have done wonders to peel back the layers of who Josh really is, who his father really was – and give the audience more of a hint of what this Gospel is really saying.

I applaud Rivedal’s talent.  He’s got it – that’s undeniable.   And he’s engaging to watch.  He’s charming, likeable, and winning. But The Gospel According To Josh seems unfinished – like there’s another commandment all carved up and ready to be brought down from the mount.  If Rivedal ever decides to take this show to the places he let us peek into – I’ll be the first person on my feet ready to testify.  But for now, this is one gospel that’s not quite ready for the pulpit.


The Gospel According To Josh
Written and Performed by Joshua Rivedal
Directed by Josh Gaboian
Dorothy Strelsin Theatre
312 West 36th Street
2nd Floor
July 21 @ 6PM
July 24 @ 3PM
July 27 @ 8PM
Aug 1st @ 6PM
For More Information Click Here
To Purchase Tickets Click Here
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