This 90-minute intermission-less play is a comic and occasionally serious address to the audience by God who often sits on a large white couch as he revises The Ten Commandments. Some are kept and some are replaced by new ones during his arch analysis of human history. Angels Gabriel and Michael who also go out into the audience to take questions assist God.
Author David Javerbaum adapted his 2011 book The Last Testament: A Memoir by God into this play. Mr. Javerbaum was the head writer and executive producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is currently a producer for The Late Late Show with James Corden. He also wrote lyrics for the Broadway musical Cry-Baby. The conceit and dialogue here are in the style of professional comedy writing and occasionally the jokes are accompanied by a rim shot. It is theatrically well structured, the humor is quite accessible and topical, and is often actually funny. Gun control, gay rights, and abortion are among the contemporary targets irreverently skewered.
By the way, the reason masturbation is a sin is not that it’s intrinsically evil.
It’s that every time you do it, I have to watch.
At this very moment 24 million people are Masturbating.
A lot of familiar faces here tonight. And some new ones.
Latecomers during the performance are taunted with, “You’re lucky I’m God and not Patti LuPone.” A cell phone goes off and is brought on stage for God to answer. He and the angels take a selfie. There’s a bit about Bruce Jenner’s gender transition to Caitlyn Jenner. As the show is performed at Studio 54 there are jokes about Liza Minnelli and Mick Jagger being there during its nightclub heyday.
Things get darkly serious during a section about Jesus:
Jesus was no pussy. Jesus was one tough son of a bitch.
For my son did not complain when they sentenced him to death.
My son did not wince as they placed upon him the crown of thorns.
He knew I was watching; he could have summoned me to his assistance; he could have called in the cavalry to Calvary any time.
But he didn’t.
And as my son staggered through the Via Dolorosa carrying the means of his own death, I smiled and thought, “That’s my boy!”
What could have been a very simple presentation has been extravagantly configured for Broadway. Joe Mantello’s energetic staging and clever flourishes inventively gives the show scope.
The colossal set seemingly inspired by the circular creations of artist James Turrell is by scenic designer Scott Pask. It is a high-tech realization of Heaven with lots of white and a long staircase up the sky.
Peter Nigrini’s projections are a cross between Cecil B. DeMille and Stanley Kubrick. The work of lighting designer Hugh Vanstone and sound designer Fitz Patton both forcefully enhance the ethereal dimensions of the production. Costume designer David Zinn has wittily created the obligatory white robes and wings with pizzazz. Adam Schlesinger contributed a cute song for God and was the music producer.
Christopher Fitzgerald and Tim Kazurinsky are solidly comic and charming as the angels. Each have been given their moments in the spotlight and each get a fair amount of focus and laughs on their own.
An Act of God is a case of star driven Broadway theater and conceivably any one of a number of celebrated performers could have played God to a packed and enthusiastic house as this was.
Here it is Jim Parsons. He has established his “brand,” with his likeable, quirky, nerdy persona and distinctively monotonous speech pattern in a long-running hit television situation comedy. He splendidly gives the idiosyncratic performance he is known for and though there are other elements of the show, he really is the show.
If one doesn’t have an affinity for his sensibility it is possible to find oneself taking it all in, in relative silence, while many others are laughing uproariously.
An Act of God (through August 2, 2015)
Studio 54, 254 West 54th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 1-800-447-7400 or visit http://www.telecharge.com
Running time: ninety minutes with no intermission