If you like stories about hypocritical Christian assholes, you'll like this, and you'll embrace the idea of a sympathetic figure who went far beyond the call in trying to right a wrong.
As theater, however, the show lacks the punch that breathes life into those stories. Playwright Dennis Hassell has drawn Jordan too scantily to be believed as one of the modern world's religious elite, and director Robert Smyth thus has little to work with in trying to paint Jordan with a broad brush. You won't lack for great tech and solid performances (like the ones from Adrian Blount as the resilient Velma and Deborah Gilmour Smyth as Florence, Jordan's true-blue wife), and the gospel score will stand your hair on end. But because there's so little of the authentic Clarence to inspire the characters, the good acting never really finds a place to land.
Jordan died in 1969, having written The Cotton Patch Gospels (translations of the New Testament into everyday language) and helping lay the groundwork for what would become Habitat for Humanity, which, since its founding in 1976, has built 350,000 homes for 1.75 million people worldwide. The man totally walked Jesus' talk,
shrugging off his white brethren's disdain even as they resorted to violence. The problem is that we get to know him only partway amid scenes like his confrontations with racist crackers and his gentle inquiries into the black sharecroppers' well-being. Hassell never touches the colossal past that must have inspired such a man, and Rick D. Meads plays him like a next-door neighbor, showing little of the spiritual fiber that drove him.
“It's a great idea,” Gandhi often remarked about Christianity; “somebody oughta try it sometime.” Nice to think Jordan would stifle a chuckle at the thought of that, because he probably felt the same way—but with this show, we're left to scratch our heads about the depth of his being rather than take wonder at its reality.
This review is based on the opening-night performance of Oct. 8. The Glory Man plays through Nov. 14 at the Ione and Paul Harter Stage, 1142 Orange Ave. in Coronado. $28-$58. lambsplayers.org. Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.