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Monday, October 10, 2005

Thanks for letting me borrow the Sponger for a while.

Oh, the questions:

Can a life of preening self-regard, gossipy self-aggrandizement, and laughable pseudoscholarship be made into a drama that isn't "Boy Meets Tractor" agitprop?

Can a spiteful fundamentalist who has traded in one intellectually void worldview for another be a sympathetic dramatic protagonist?

Why not a musical: SpongRock!

More importantly: Can a play close during the first intermission?

We will soon find out. Perhaps the strangest thing is that it's not a one-man play:

At 74, Spong, the retired bishop of Newark, N.J., continues to rile many Christians with his denial of the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus and a God who works miracles and exacts punishment. His critics call him a heretic.

Others, however, say that Spong's defense of ethnic minorities, women and gays as well as his skeptical take on Scripture as the literal word of God bring relevance, rationality and hope.

Now Spong's lifelong quest to wrest himself from what he has called his fundamentalist evangelical North Carolina upbringing to understanding God in a radically different way is the subject of a sympathetic new drama, "A Pebble In My Shoe."The bishop plans to be at Sunday's 5:15 p.m. premiere at the Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St. After the 90-minute performance, Spong will be honored at a reception. He also will sign his latest book, "The Sins of Scripture." Other performances are scheduled for Oct. 15,16, 22 and 23.

Written and directed by Cox, the play is based on Spong's 1999 autobiography, "Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love and Equality." It features actor Stephan Wolfert as the bishop.

Maybe Mr. Wolfert will be able to parlay this stepping stone into a role of true artistic integrity.

Like, say, portraying a satisfied client of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe in a commercial that runs during the middle of Montel.

[Update: My beloved child-bride, who has seen the movie more times than theoretical mathematics can count, gently corrected me, resulting in the change of the post title. She also has a great story about the time she nearly made Molly Ringwald cry in Paris (and still feels awful about it, if you're reading this, Ms. Ringwald), but I'll let her tell it.]

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