How to Write a New Book for the Bible – Berkeley Repertory Theatre [Review]

I’ve always loved good coming-of age-stories, origin stories, and memoirs. Bill Cain’s latest play, How to Write a New Book for the Bible (directed by Kent Nicholson at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre), indeed satisfies my thirst for this kind of psycho-analytical character-driven drama. However, while I walked into this play understanding that it was autobiographical and written following the death of Cain’s mother, Mary, what I didn’t expect was how hard and often I could laugh while watching a play written in such somber circumstances, and how much I could actually enjoy a bit of “preachiness” in a play.

Tyler Pierce and Linda Gehringer. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

It may be unfair to describe How to Write as preachy. Cain is actually a Jesuit Priest/award-winning-playwright, so it is entirely appropriate that at key moments, Bill, (played charmingly by Tyler Pierce) speaks directly to the audience, combining funny and entirely relatable observations with reverent revelation. Pierce plays Bill Cain as if he were the impossible offspring of Ray Romano and Henry David Thoreau. And although these monologues are certainly informed by Cain’s clerical past (the character half-waxes-half-admits that “all writing is prayer”), they seem to trod the inviting meanderings of a philosopher-poet, eschewing the guilt-laden homilies which former-Catholics fervently avoid.

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