The collaboration between the church and theatre continues to be an intriguing and viable outlet, especially here in Los Angeles, a locale that curiously does not have a thriving stage culture, in spite of the humongous acting population drawn here by the allure of the film and television industry.

One such association held performances recently at West Los Angeles’ Redeemer Baptist Church. Titled “ER: The Resurrection Stage Play,” it is a contemporary reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus, done in a comedic gospel format. Written by Jeneen Robinson, the production builds upon the novel idea that the physician grandson of the 44th president, named “Nonchalant Obama” and played by Donathan Walters, is head of an inner-city hospital bearing the name of his famous forbearer in the near future.

Bearing more then a nodding resemblance to a local, real life, scandal-plagued health facility currently in the process of being reopened, the Barack Obama Hospital is undermined by the dual liabilities of an inept staffing cadre and dwindling finances, exacerbated by the desire of the medical regulating body to shut it down.

Dr. Nonchalant Obama boasts a formidable family legacy, impeccable educational background, and little else. The health personnel, including nurses Dawn Dai and Sia Foyoh (exhibiting a serviceable African accent) seem to be preoccupied by the urge to “hook up” with potential suitors, exploit opportunities to party on company time, or use the facility for economic gain.

The futility of the situation is not lost on Dr. Obama. “Professionalism is not one of our strong points here,” he admits.

Adding drama to this already precarious situation is the arrival into the emergency room of a half naked derelict (Antonio Ferris, seen recently on HBO’s “True Detective,” and FX’s “The Bridge”), found hanging from a tree and bearing a passing resemblance to a well-known Messianic figure. Giving the play a modern take on the crucifixion-between-thieves Bible story, this unfortunate victim is placed on a gurney between two miscreants from opposite ends of the criminal spectrum: narcotics kingpin Marcus Jackson (Chris Fox Clanton, a veteran of HBO’s “The Wire”), who appears to display genuine remorse as he pines for the innocence of his youth; and corporate oil tycoon fat cat Thierry Mueller (played with oily perfection by Malcolm Matthews), who is willing to parlay a badly needed donation of cash into the floundering hospital in exchange for an organ transplant and further relaxation of the institution’s questionable ethical standards.

Blessings come in unexpected packages, however, and this new series of ill-fated events may just provide the doctor an opportunity to redeem himself and elevate the hospital to provide services so desperately needed by the community.

The biggest hurdle for this particular performance was the poor acoustics present in the church. Playwright Robinson seems to have penned clever dialogue, which alas is wasted, as all the best lines are lost in the rafters. This hampered all of the performers with the exception of Marva Smith, whose vocal talents transcended any issues with the sound system. Aided and abetted by the keyboard styling of local talent Darrell Alston, the songs she delivers are the highlight of the show. Alston’s (who has served as musical director for the Fifth Dimension’s Marilyn McCoo and Billie Davis) piano provides an elegant cushion for the soulful Smith in the best gospel tradition.

“ER: The Resurrection Stage Play,” relocates to Hollywood and the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., this Saturday, April 4. Plans are in the works for a possible tour of this production. For more information, call (310) 927-2685, or visit