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Sly commentary with a backbeat

'J.O.B. the Hip-Hopera' is a rap cantata that breaks and vogues the Book of Job into corporate critique.

November 04, 2005|David C. Nichols | Special to The Times

Crossover art, like globalization, is here to stay. That barely explains how "J.O.B. the Hip-Hopera" turns the Stella Adler into the most pulse-racing pad in town. This sensational rap cantata by writer-performers Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion pulls the street backbeat into groundbreaking heat.

Revised from Sable and Batalion's 2002 fringe festival hit, the new, through-rapped edition jams, breaks and vogues the Book of Job into sly corporate commentary. The witty, raw-language scenario concerns Job Lowe, head of artists and repertoire at Los Angeles-based gangsta label Hoover Records. He advocates "this thing called conscious rappin' / That craft of rappin's back in fashion / And the words have so much passion."

Like "hip" playing against "hop," gravel-voiced company head Jonathan Hoover (think Jehovah) and fey vice president of finance Louis Saphire (guess who) toss Job out of his job into mailroom despair. Unpredictable counterpoint comes from our hosts, MC Cain and MC Abel, aspiring rappers lost in the jingle jungle. Both parables, hilarious and chilling by turns, converge in a dualistic statement.

Ideally contrasted, Sable and Batalion toss off all the characters, including each other's, with prodigious verve. Co-directors Stefan Novinski -- presumably responsible for the richly surreal tone -- and Hassan Christopher -- credited with the hair-raising choreography and staging -- spin breathtaking tech and a death-defying corps around them.

Inside the neon-based letters that back Donna Marquet's striking metal set pieces, DJ Creativity heroically scratches out the invigorating, multireferential score (music by Sable, Batalion and Joe Barrucco). Steven Young's color-splashed lights and the by-committee sound are astounding, and Nikkema Taylor makes a fly R&B vocalist.

The few blurred lyrics and confusing transitions pale beside such innovation. Approaching the arch ingenuity of "Play Without Words" and dark frivolity of "Echo's Hammer," not to mention Savion Glover and Russell Simmons, "J.O.B." is a watershed event. Don't diss it, don't miss it.

*

'J.O.B. the Hip-Hopera'

Where: Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., second floor, Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 8 p.m. Sundays.

No show Nov. 24.

Ends: Nov. 27

Price: $20 to $30

Contact: (323) 960-4420 or www.sableandbatalion.com

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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