Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
An Act of God
Not badly, as it turns out. The jokes are quick and qualitynot everyone laughed at everything, but everyone in the audience seemed to find at least some of it funny. In the show's single act ("It's called An Act of God," a friend pointed out), God comes to earth in the form of Sean Hayes ("He has no idea why he's here," God explains) to give humanity a new Ten Commandments, to clarify what it is that He wants from us. It's an acceptable framework for a show, giving playwright David Javerbaum an opportunity to have God discuss ten different topicswith the "truth" behind the Bible's stories and a healthy sprinkling of humor.
As you might expect, the show has a pretty liberal viewpointthe very first new commandment (announced to audience cheers) is "Thou Shalt Not Tell Others Whom to Fornicate." And certain Christian conservative candidates are the butt of a few jokes. But, for your stereotypical liberal theatrical crowd, it doesn't offendand it very obviously avoids getting into truly divisive topics like abortion.
But, like many successful comedies, An Act of God tries to be something more, going serious in places and trying to say something important about humanity's relationship to God. It starts when God is discussing the Binding of Isaac, a topic which has troubled religious scholars for years. But we rarely consider the story from the point of view of God; and when An Act of God goes through the tale as God experienced it, there is something genuinely interesting going on. That isn't always the case. Although the show goes serious a few times, I found the ending (and the last new commandment) to be something of a cop-outan unsatisfactory solution to the big questions raised. (This is particularly disappointing because the show flirts with a much better endingbut that would have required taking a more controversial stand on something big.)
The other problem occurs when God gets angryfull-scale Old Testament wrath stuff. And this doesn't work because Hayes just can't do it. Hayes does a terrific job with most of the show: he gives us a God who is energetic, playful, mercurial, sarcastic, and always aware of his omnipotence. Hayes also has no trouble with the language, whether Biblical, intellectual, or colloquial. But vicious, brutal, heaven-shaking rage is just not in his bag of tricks, and when the play calls for it, it is simply not effective.
Luckily, this doesn't happen much. The show is mostly brisk comedy, with the occasional attempt at depth, and it's a pleasant night at the theatre. It just isn't anything more than that.
An Act of God runs at the Ahmanson Theatre through March 13, 2016. For tickets and information, see www.centertheatregroup.org.
Center Theatre Group - Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director; Stephen D. Rountree, Managing Director; Douglas C. Baker, Producing Director; Gordon Davidson, Founding Artistic Director - Jeffrey Finn; The Shubert Organization; Carl Moellenberg; Roy Putrino; Adam Zotovich; Arielle Tepper Madover; Stacey Mindich; Grover Entertainment; Bob Boyett; Richard Winkler; FG Productions; Marco Gomez; Jay and Cindy Gutterman; Jamie Kaye-Phillips; Corinne Hayoun and Denver Center for the Performing Arts present An Act of God by David Javerbaum. Scenic Design Scott Pask; Costume Design David Zinn; Lighting Design Hugh Vanstone; Sound Design Fitz Patton; Music Adam Schlesinger; Projection Design Peter Nigrini; Illusion Consultant Paul Kieve; Special Effects Gregory Meeh; Casting David Caparelliotis, CSA and Michael Donovan, CSA; Technical Supervisor Aurora Productions; Tour Press Representative Polk & Co.; Advertising Serino/Coyne; Production State Manager Lora K. Powell; Company Manager Susan J. Blyth; Executive Producer 101 Productions, Ltd. Directed by Joe Mantello.