New York City Theater
"An Act of God"
Studio 54 Theater
Never say “Gesundheit” again. That’s one of the lessons learned from the funny though over-extended lounge act, “An Act of God.” With exquisite timing and a look that could wither fish, Jim Parsons slyly plays the Deity as someone (Someone?) who couldn’t care less about blessing your sneezes. Further, “your piety or lack thereof, either as an athlete, a team, or a fan base, is meaningless to me. I do not influence the outcome of sporting events to affect the winner. Are we clear?” The same goes for showbiz.
Dressed in a white robe, over jeans and a plaid shirt, wearing red sneakers, Parsons sits on a white couch against a backdrop of heavenly clouds. Some may be offended by this 90 minute, intermissionless dyspeptic evening of one-liners and ten commandments, but only churlish evangelicals should find it blasphemous or sacrilegious. Rather, call it “irreverent” and good for continuous chuckles.
It has that “oops” factor, like the times you caught yourself laughing in church. Something strikes you as silly, even ridiculous and you hope lightning doesn’t strike which it occasionally does when that superb director, Joe Mantello, injects some theatricality into the evening.
But wait for the very serious ideas behind the evening’s shenanigans, the true purpose of the visitation. What God really wants – and let’s be careful not to spill spoilers – is for us to understand that ”belief and faith are no excuses for abandoning sound judgment.” He has pertinent things to say about gays and the separation of church and state, as well.
Preaching to his Chosen People (meaning Jews and celebrities, although there is a cross-over), God, as devised by one of Jon Stewart’s writers, David Javerbaum, is a frisky, no-nonsense guy who wants to disabuse us of our most treasured notions. As such, he takes us through riffs on the Bible, as well as his relationship with Job, Abraham, Cain and a bunch of other Old Testament figures who are livelier, and certainly more wanton than New Testament ones. A long-winded recounting of the birth and life of Jesus goes on too long and isn’t terribly amusing. Begats and vengeance beat sweetness and acceptance anytime.
But we learn a lot: that Adam and Eve were not his first choice, that his favorite human emotions are awe and panic, that he has a temper and that his being in New York is as close as he wants to get to America. Ably assisted by two archangels, the Bible-quoting Gabriel (Tim Kazurinsky) and audience-roaming Michael (Christopher Fitzgerald), Parsons is too affable to be fearful.
Despite raining down thunder and lightning and threatening hell, this is a benevolent God, presiding over a pleasant party. With Parsons as his redoubtable avatar, he’s more host than Host.
--David A. Rosenberg
June 10, 2015