At the beginning of God of Marz, I thought I had accidentally walked into a club – but that didn’t make sense, since it was before 11pm and I had a straight man with me. And yet, two twerking dancers had begun sashaying through the audience holding platters full of treats – all while shouting sassy things at people.
Then they mounted the stage and started grinding over a giant red alien symbol that looked like the “C” in the Chick-fil-A logo, which could have been a political metaphor, maybe. In any case, I realized at this point that I had walked in on something wholly unique.
God of Marz – directed and choreographed by Glenn Girón – follows two astronauts who land on Mars and encounter God, only to have their belief system and way of life challenged. Also, God is not quite who they pictured she’d be. In fact, she’s a Jewish auntie who’s into kink.
And that’s not the only moment of absurdity in the script. There are several, thus revealing the true form of playwright Rachel A. Shaw’s mind. And judging by this show, her mind is full of secrets. That’s why her role is so big.
It’s important to mention that this show is designed to showcase Shaw in every way. She’s the lead actress (under her stage name of Rachel Sheen) and writer/creator, and even showcases her gymnastics ability by wedging in a lengthy aerial gymnastics routine that is tangentially related to the plot.
The play uses alternating cast in two of the roles. On the night I went, Sheen shared the stage with the equally-attractive Marquis Wood, who showcased some fine work in the abs department. (P.S. My straight plus-one approved of Sheen’s abs as well, so Sheen and Wood were aptly matched.) Unfortunately, Sheen and Wood were overshadowed by the Jeff Goldblum-esque God (Laura Leigh Carroll) and the hilariously gay Jesus (Adam Chisnall), both of whom should be given their own play. I also would have liked more of Chandler Converse who played the Devil.
As for the show’s humor, there were moments when Sheen should have played her emotions straight instead of going for laughs (a.k.a. the #1 rule of comedy acting) — but there’s time for her to grow into that. Additionally, the comedic concepts in God of Marz could use more development. The show is on the cusp of being a funny, zany absurdist romp, but it doesn’t have enough internal logic in its script to justify its more inventive flourishes. With tweaks, that could definitely happen. Still, there were a few good one-liners. Example: “You know, my birthday is September 11.” / “That’s tragic! You’re a Virgo!”
There were also some sudden tonal shifts into drama, such as when Sheen’s character grappled with interesting existential questions via a lengthy discussion with God. Unfortunately, the show’s elements of romance, intrigue, and suspense didn’t come until the final twenty minutes.
The original score, by Mark Lazeski, offered helpful cues, and the lighting design by Nick Chavin helped soften the scene transitions and tone shifts. There were moments when less could have been more, such as when God smote one of the characters with a lightning bolt projected onto the wall, but that was most likely a directorial choice.
Importantly, my straight companion confirmed that this show is a safe space for heterosexual men due to its abundance of female partial nudity. However, he also made sure to note its “interesting philosophical concepts on the importance of finding appreciation of the human experience, in addition to its hot, flexible actresses getting their kit off for a bit.” (He’s British.)
Afterwards, we both expressed interest in knowing what else Shaw had up her sleeve in the future, though for different reasons.
God of Marz (through June 15, 2019)
Red Planet Theater Company
TBG Mainstage Theatre, 312 W 36th St, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit GodOfMarz.com.
Running time: one hour and 15 minutes with no intermission