“How do I get ‘faith’?’’ a former temple guard named Barnabas asks the title character in “Paul,’’ a retelling of Christianity’s origins. “What is it? A feeling? A fever? A what?’’

To Howard Brenton, the British author of “Paul,’’ the answer seems to be: all three. Faith is a feeling, a fever, and an imponderable, wrapped in a question mark and resting on a very shaky foundation.

In a flawed but provocative Gamm Theatre production that is billed as the North American premiere of “Paul,’’ director Tony Estrella ratchets up the intensity and turns up the volume within the Gamm’s tiny, 137-seat space. At times this approach gives “Paul’’ a lapel-grabbing stridency, and you find yourself wishing Estrella would dial it back a bit and allow more of the dialogue to unfold in conversational tones rather than a near-shout.

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