THE FREAK -- At New Playwrights' Theater, Wednesday through Sunday evenings through December 9.
In a scene of lyrical naivete, the title character in "The Freak" at the New Playwrights' Theater retells a Bibilical parable for Sunday school children, relating it to simple aspects of their lives, and then to his own.
Granville Wyche Burgess, the playwright, never gets around to the point of doing this for the audience, although he has given himself nearly three hours for the attempt. In dramatizing the trials of Edgar Cayce as a psychic in a small Kentucky town in 1910, he never relates it to the world as we know it. Unless you subscribe without question to the belief that the society was so steeped in love of science and religion at the early part of the century that it blindly failed to recognize the now-obvious truths of psychic vination and reincarnation, the play doesn't make any sense.
The leading actor, Stuart Lerch, is so marvelously engaging that one wants to believe in him. Lerch shines with goodness and understanding in a variety of difficult scenes -- inventive scenes whose challenge he meets, as well as tedious scenes he manages to brighten.
But the play is nothing more than an endless deification. The character is paraded before us as honest, modest, home-loving, God-fearing and press-hating, a paragon, who is so far from capitalizing on his "gift" that his greatest attempt is to suppress it. Over and over, he is made to reject bitterly being compared with Jesus, but in the end he reluctantly accepts the honor, to the everlasting happiness of all who know him and, presumably, the world that is to be healed of all its ills.
After that, the least the audience has a right to be told is why, now that enlightment has finally overcome the skepticism of that era, the cure hasn't taken.