BWW Review: Irreverent AN ACT OF GOD Brings Deliciously Funny SEAN HAYES to the Ahmanson
Years ago, comedian extraordinaire George Burns inhabited God on film; when he spoke, we listened. The world was in love with Burns, so who presently has the charisma, that same unmistakable appeal? Why, Sean Hayes, of course! Everybody loved him as rambunctious but likable Jack McFarland in TV's Will & Grace. He's the man. Even the voice of God admits up front in An Act of God, currently onstage at the Ahmanson Theatre through March 13, that if he is going to come down and meet the people, there are certain things that He lacks, which Hayes possesses. "He acts, he sings, he dances, not exceedingly well; he just does them, but in the end we find ourselves rooting for him, don't we? The funny thing is, he has no idea he's here. My depthless profundities will be aided by his offbeat charm."
Thus begins a 90-minute almost monologue of witty repartee on the world as God sees it. He is assisted by Angel Gabriel (James Gleason) on stage right and Angel Michael (David Josefsberg) at his left. Michael goes into the audience and fields questions, like Do you have a universal plan? God's answer: Go with the flow. When God's grand entrance down the staircase from on high technically fumbles at the top, Hayes climbs over a wall of the set and begins. Seems like a perfect Jack McFarland entrance to me, and as Sean Hayes is playing God, then why not? Playwright David Javerbaum, who wrote to acclaim for TV's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart knows all too well how to get a laugh or two, so Hayes injects his blase, carefree personality into God to great effect. When he is asked about the evidence for evolution, his retort? "Every time a scientist dies and arrives in heaven, I greet him and tell him how glad I am he brought reason and enlightenment to humanity, the whole massive endeavor becomes worth it...at the moment the skies darken, and the trapdoor opens, I bellow "So long, sucker!""
Catholics will love Javerbaum's take, especially God's presentation of a whole new set of Commandments. "I've grown weary of the Ten Commandments." What's new? Thou shalt not tell others whom to fornicate. This is God's answer to the gay issue. God claims he made Adam and then as a partner Steve, so he's completely open to equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. Another new commandment: Thou shalt not tell Me what to do. God is God after all, even though he admits to being an omnipotent incompetent. My favorite commandment? Thou shalt believe in thyself!! Catholics are taught from an early age that they must carry God's word within and that they are to set God's example at all times. Consequently, no Catholics should be upset with Javerbaum's script, as it follows scripture. There are the stories of Cain and Abel, of Abraham and Isaac with God attempting to show a human side to the issues of murder/gun control and love, not hate of one's children and fellow man.
Javerbaum rewrote his play for the City of Angels, showing God's attraction to Hollywood and celebrities. "Celebrities are My chosen people. I know the Jews are also My chosen people, but...there's a lot of overlap." Celebs mentioned include Matthew McConaughey, Leonardo DiCaprio, and even Sarah Palin, whom God...professes to hate.When the question arises about how could God allow the Holocaust to occur, he admits to loving the show Cabaret. "Well, no Holocaust... no Cabaret." Political references abound as well with Palin...and Donald Trump, whom God declares "should not be allowed to roam the earth."
Under Joe Mantello's sturdy hand, Hayes is hilarious as he fills the gaps with reckless abandon on just about every topic from soup to nuts, including his own infallibility. Gleason and Josefsberg are both sterling actors and do their best as second bananas. Hayes even gets a chance to sing and dance in his "Godbye" number at the end, accompanied by his sidekicks. And watch for the spectacular ending which brings him back to earth, but fast. Bravo to Scott Pask for his simple but cool scenic design, to David Zinn for costumes, Hugh Vanstone for his fine lighting design and Fitz Patton for sound.
An Act of God, a One-God Show has the ring of Vegas. It should play there to great acclaim. Go and enjoy the irreverent and insightful proceedings! It's high on entertainment....and who wouldn't like a pal in God, be honest, if only for a moment...well, you've got one in Sean Hayes!!