MONTREAL — Lucinda Davis gets to play God. In fact, it’s her second time.
The Centaur Theatre presents a contemporary retelling of the Book of Job with “The Book of Bob,” a world premiere by Arthur Holden about a professor dealing with an overburdened work life.
“I have played God before,” Davis said, an accomplishment not too many actors can lay claim to. “I was actually a replacement God.”
Davis first played the role in a fringe-esque work titled “Jesus Jell-O: The Miraculous Confection.”
“The Book of Bob” indeed tells the story of Bob, played by Ron Lea, a do-gooder university professor who tries his best to teach Dostoyevsky to uninterested 20-year-olds and struggles to deal with an ailing father. Bob doesn’t even own a cellphone or a car “on matter of principle.”
“Bob’s a good guy with a good job, a good family and a good life,” Davis said. “And he doesn’t believe in God. So the play looks at how Bob responds when hardship and misfortune comes his way.”
Enter God, who has a few of his, er, her own tests for the professor, beginning with a student’s cellphone, which goes off in class.
“That’s the first trial,” Davis said. “He asks very politely for the student to turn off the phone. She does not.”
In addition to God, Davis plays all of the characters with whom Bob interacts — including the student. She plays 10 characters in all, including Bob’s department head, wife, son’s girlfriend, father and even Satan.
“Which is definitely a challenge,” Davis said. “I want to make each character unique without making them a caricature. I want to play them honestly but differently.”
Davis employs a variety of mannerisms and voices to accomplish the task. In addition to multiple characters, director Ellen David has created a multimedia video that hints as to where Bob is at any given moment.
“The video is very interactive,” Davis said. “It has such a strong presence.”
Davis says Bob’s profession as a political philosopher and themes of punishment, existential self will, and not believing in a higher power all begin to unfold.
“It’s a continual onslaught about being tested,” Davis said.
Davis thinks the audience will see a bit of themselves in Bob.
“I think he’s such an everyman,” Davis said. “He’s a good man; he’s not a bad person. But just how many times can you walk an upright path when people keep pushing your buttons? At one point you have to say, ‘Why me?’”
With all of Bob’s trials and tribulations, Davis has one endearing takeaway wish for the audience.
“Hope,” she said. “Whether you believe in a higher power or not, it’s about hoping you can cope and finding that supporting, loving environment you need.”
Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at iTunes.com.IF YOU GO "The Book of Bob" is performed through March 2. The Centaur Theatre is at 453 St. Francois Xavier St. in Old Montreal. Adult tickets cost $47.50 with discounts for matinees, seniors and under 30. Most performances are at 8 p.m.; matinees at 1 or 2 p.m. Call the box office at (514) 288-3161 or visit www.centaurtheatre.com.