BWW Review: AN ACT OF GOD at Chat Noir - Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth
The almighty God has descended from heaven to reveal himself to the people (at Chat Noir) to clear up a few things. He is distraught by the manner the world has evolved since "the launch" of the Ten Commandments and his last visit a few thousand years ago. Now he has come to speak the people (in the shape of Frank Kjosås) to clear up some misinterpretations, once and for all. Ninety minutes later we were not much the wiser, albeit there were laughs along the way.
"An Act of God", written by (13 times Emmy award winner) David Javerbaum, started its life as a series of tweets which again evolved into the book "The Last Testament: A Memoir By God". In 2015 he adapted it into the play "An Act of God" opening for a limited run on Broadway at the famous Studio 54 starring Jim Parsons (Sheldon in the TV-hit 'The Big Bang Theory'). It returned the following year starring Sean Hayes of 'Will & Grace' fame. It has later been presented in several countries around the world.
Simen Solli Schøien, Frank Kjosås and Henrik Thodesen have translated Javerbaum's play and adapted it to make it more relevant for a Norwegian audiences. This was to be expected as the the original is heavily centered on the US-themes such as minorities (especially the Jewish community), the constitution, gun laws and Trump's presidency and a lot of popular culture references that would not fly well, with this generation at least. I doubt many Norwegian millennials care about who shot J.R. in "Dallas".
The Lord himself, Frank Kjosås, struggled a bit finding himself. To clear up this many misconceptions about ten commandments with such a short running time is not easy, and since I am not well versed in the old testament (the new one as well, for that matter) I had a hard time connecting. Kjosås is a talented performer and I especially loved that he didn't take himself very seriously. The fact that he came in high heels (because of his height) and called himself androgynous is proof of that. But he only did this at the start of the show and didn't utilize this throughout the evening. In the original play Javerbaum wrote a sarcastically funny, even quite passive aggressive version of God. Here I found it hard believe God's claims that he has anger management issues. In addition, The audience never got to know Gods personality well enough, both because Kjosås felt unrelaxed at times, rushing through the text in record-speed (needing help from the prompter more than once). But when the opening night jitters subsided it resulted in more and more laughter.
In this version, instead of the Arch Angel Michael taking questions from the audience, we have comedian Henrik Thodesen (as himself) stepping in for Michael who is on sick-leave. And the audience questions are mostly read from a mailbox. I must say that if it hadn't been for Thodesen's frequent interruptions and comments to God this could have become a denser experience than what it turned out to be. Thodesen is delightfully uncomfortable by the whole ordeal, and his leg gets (genuinely) electrocuted by God many times during this (a joke that grew old rather quickly). At times the attention war between Kjosås and Thodesen became clustered, and made it difficult for "God" to get his points across.
In conclusion the end result did feel somewhat unfinished, and would have benefitted from more development. In addition more of the relaxed, simplistic style of the original should have been kept intact with "fake" audience participation/involvement. But while it was hard to keep up God at times, I will acknowledge that of one of the reasons for this (at least in the first half) was not God's fault alone, but due to one "member of the congregation" that had obviously been sipping too much of the alter wine before going in and who started his own rather loud monologue on row 5. God did not hear my prayer of shutting him up, but after a while someone asked him to leave (so maybe God DO listen after all).
Med: Frank Kjosås, Henrik Thodesen og Simen Solli Schøien
Director: Jostein Kirkeby-Garstad
Written by: David Javerbaum
Norwegian adaptation: Simen Solli Schøien, Frank Kjosås and Henrik Thodesen
Music: Simen Solli Schøien
Lighting design: Anders Bush
Stage design: Gjermund Andresen
Sound: Espen Nordheim
Producer: Prologo og Thalia Teater