This is said by God on a charismatic interfaith televangelist’s talk show in playwright Peter Filichia’s wild satire God Shows Up. Neat puns, polished one-liners and wacky plot twists all breezily elicits a lot of laughter while wickedly skewering organized religion, social media and celebrity culture. Mr. Filichia’s disciplined treatment of these perennial subjects is highly comedic yet imparts its sober message with brio.
At a St. Louis, Missouri television studio in “the slightly distant future,” we meet Dr. Thomas Isaac Rehan. He is a popular preacher who drives a
Lexus, lives in a sprawling compound and whose wife Velma and their children are away ministering to the needy in Paris, France. His wry technician Roberta is a cancer survivor and efficiently manages the broadcasts. After a delay, the affable God arrives from a nearby Holiday Inn. There’s pointed interrogatory exchanges, natural disasters and startling revelations as the play reaches its melancholic conclusion.
Filichia has had a long and storied career as a theater critic and author of several books on the topic. His having witnessed a multitude of productions, this immersion informs God Shows Up’s fine structure and technical command of playwrighting. The bouncy dialogue has Shavian passages and the expertly defined characters make terrific roles for actors to play.
The telegenic Christopher Sutton hilariously portrays the sharpie man of faith with gusto, shifting gears with dramatic flair. Bearded New York City stage veteran Lou Liberatore’s puckishness, animated presence and droll comic timing all make him a perfectly believable God. With her delightfully dry vocal delivery and weary countenance Maggie Bofill mines all of the possible humor in her interjections as Roberta while wearing a wool cap. Ms. Bofill also appears to great effect as a surprise character.
Director Christopher Scott’s forceful staging lands all of the verbal and visual jokes while maintaining the play’s thoughtful aspects. The small stage is dominated by two plush chairs and Roberta’s control station off to the side. Scenic designer Josh Iacovelli’s witty efforts also include Buddhas, crucifixes and other religious totems on shelves. Joan Racho-Jansen’s lighting design veers from crisp brightness to ominous otherworldliness when needed.
From photos of kooky products Dr. Rehan sells, to mock book jackets and environmental imagery, projection designer Andy Evan Cohen piles on funny sight gags. Mr. Cohen’s sound design is equally adept at rendering jolting effects and musical accompaniment. God’s jeans and plaid shirt and Rehan’s power suit are the main pieces of Michael Piatkowski’s artfully appropriate costume design.
As it goes along, God Shows Up strains to sustain its length of 75 minutes and it arguably may have made for an effective one-act play. However, Filichia’s crackling writing and the cast’s snappy performances ultimately put it over.
God Shows Up (through February 21, 2019)
The Playroom Theater, 151 West 46th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-967-8278 or visit http://www.eventbrite.com
Running time: 75 minutes with no intermission