BWW Reviews: GOD'S FAVORITE Isn't Our Favorite
There's a thought that may come to mind within the first ten minutes of God's Favorite, the so-called Neil Simon comedy now playing at Sam Bass Theatre. In those first moments, audience members may wonder if the play will get any better. It won't. It's so bad, it's almost insulting that audience members are expected to sit through two hours of this type of garbage.
God's Favorite, one of Simon's most convoluted and un-funny plays, goes nowhere on paper. This production delves even further into that pointless Nowhereland. It's a slow, boring, unfunny production that is often more painful than any torture given to the poor souls residing in the seventh circle of hell.
The problems stem from the show selection itself. While Neil Simon is one of the most well-known and celebrated comedic playwrights of all time, not all of his three-dozen plays and musicals are brilliant pieces worthy of revivals and remountings. God's Favorite is nowhere near the greatness of Simon's more notable works. Though most of Simon's comedies rely on sitcom style humor, he also typically develops interesting characters. What would The Odd Couple be without the distinct personalities of Oscar and Felix? With God's Favorite, which is based on the Biblical story of Job, Simon's clearly more concerned with his concept than he is with his wooden, one-dimensional characters. There's simply nothing interesting, witty, or invigorating in the text, and though I'm not a religious person I emphatically state that the original is far better than this trivial piece of fluff.
Director Eric Nelson does nothing to try to mask the inherent problems in Simon's script. Instead, he unintentionally highlights the issues. The exposition-laden first act runs 80 minutes, blasphemously long considering how a farce like God's Favorite relies on fast pacing to succeed. Nelson's cast is full of actors who either fail to make an impression or are memorable for all the wrong reasons. Brett Weaver, who stars as the Job-like Joe Benjamin, and Steve Menke, who plays God's messenger Sidney Lipton, both flub so many lines that the play begins to feel like a bad improve comedy. As Joe's teenage daughter, Hayley Finkleman shrieks every line in such a loud, screechy voice that I swear I heard local dogs barking in response. Kat Tait plays Joe's wife, Rose, as a New York Jewish stereotype, something quite out of place and problematic considering Joe's strong Christianity. It's doubtful that someone who identifies as a Christian Conservative would marry outside his faith. And Andre Demings, who nails the drunken swagger of Joe's problem-child son David, sadly mumbles his lines in such a quiet voice that he can barely be heard from ten feet away. The only commendable aspect of the production is the ingenious set design by EK Weaver. Watching the lavish living room set descend into chaos as God punishes Joe and his family is a treat. Sadly, the rest of the show feels as if we're being punished by God more than the Benjamin's are.
GOD'S FAVORITE plays Sam Bass Theatre (600 Lee Street, Round Rock) now thru May 2nd. Performances are Thursday - Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $13-$18. For tickets and information, please visit www.sambasstheatre.org