During a Joomla setup, I entered the MySQL info and clicked next. It is at that point I get the error. I found this article (http://forum.joomla.org/viewtopic.php?t=195859
) that had me edit the joomla.sql file and did a find/replace on the string TYPE=MyISAM and change it to ENGINE=MyISAM. This is, apparently, a side-affect of using the latest version of MySQL with an ancient version of Joomla ... no worries though. I worked through it.
The good news is, I finally have this working! After straining my eyes on various Apache and PHP logs all afternoon and countless tests, I discovered the SQL dump I was given was missing two fields in the jos_content table ('alias' and 'metadata'). I manually created the fields, export/import again in my test DB and BINGO! I have a working Joomla site.
As a side note, I did not drop the entire DB. I export/imported only the jos_content and jos_content_frontpage tables. I still need to recreate menus, categories, etc., but at this point, the site is sufficiently recovered for my needs.
dpacadmin, your input was extremely helpful in getting me pointed in the right direction. +1 on your Karma.