- OnStage New Jersey Critic
So with Republican National Convention this week in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention preparing in Philadelphia, there is a lot of politics in the air and so much rhetoric of hate and anger. What does a theatre person do to get away from all this? They go to seek God of course. Well, they go to see An Act of God at the Booth Theatre. An Act of God, is originally based on the comedic memoir called The Last Testament, A Memoir by God with David Javerbaum. This isn’t the first time God has visited New York City. In fact he once visited Studio 54 from May-August 2015 and his vessel was the brilliant Jim Parsons, of The Big Bang Theory fame. God then went and visited…The City of Angels (where else?) and then San Francisco (insert joke there). And who would be his vessel? Sean Hayes, who else? Who else but the man who brought Will & Grace’s Jack McFarland to life? So when An Act of God came back to Broadway, it was natural to have Mr. Hayes come with it.
Upon entering the Booth Theatre, you will see a massive black curtain covering the stage but not in a conventional manner. It is more like when you cover your hand to do a magic trick type of way. The particular Sunday afternoon performance I attended had such an eclectic audience. Before I go any farther, just a warning, there will be some spoilers. When the show opens, the black curtain is sucked up through a hole in the set and instantly you are being transported to an audience with God, complete with lightning, thunder, cloud travel and of course stairs to clouds. In the middle of all this, a classic Sean Hayes’s perfectly timed comedic entrance.
Assisting God and his time are the archangels Michael (David Josefsberg) and Gabriel (James Gleason) who assistant him throughout the show. Michael goes around the theatre offering up questions by the audience (or are they his questions) and Gabriel serves as God’s sidekick. Some of Michael’s audience questions cause God to provide answers to audience members like “you don’t have as much time as you think” or “happily married now”. In God’s opening monologue about creation, there are some latecomers in the audience prompting God to ask “was it the bridge or the tunnel?” That is a joke every commuter to NYC can relate to. But when another flood of orchestra seat patrons come in, God allows Mr. Hayes hysterical comedic improvisation to flow and the audience is fair game but if you have a phone out to take a picture, he will call you out on it (“Just be lucky he wasn’t Patti LuPone”). As the show gets going, there are a handful of references to Mr. Hayes’s character of Jack McFarland and gags from Will & Grace but from there on it’s God talking.
So in this church of the Booth Theatre, God had to make revisions to the Ten Commandments and corrections to the Bible and in fact give us some NEW commandments. He corrects Adam and Eve (originally Adam and Steve), through to his divine influence on the United States and on the world in general. While doing that Michael asks pestering questions that we as humans ponder of God and looking for answers. These questions bring about some interesting discussion and reactions from God that you must see. But God goes through religion, pop culture, celebrities, the brand of God, and reliance on God by society until it all comes to a climax. In the end, the message is quite clear and more thoughtful than you would expect going into the show.
So why is An Act of God something you should go see? Sean Hayes is hysterical and just what you hope to see. As God’s vessel he blends the perfect levels of humor, thought and humility needed to play this role. What if God was one of us rattled around in my mind during the show. This phrase makes a lot of sense in this case as Hayes brings His interplay with Josefsberg and Gleason are so well balanced. Josefsberg playing Michael and asking the questions we all have in the back of our minds when we watch the news. Gleason as Gabriel, on the other hand, plays God’s lovable sidekick, has wonderful dry delivery. Together they bring a very relatable God to the masses. Don’t expect some crazy existential question to be answered, don’t think that your faith will be strengthened either. But do expect to laugh from the creation of the world to modern culture.
An Act of God is the creation of the brilliant David Javerbaum. You may know him from his work as the head writer and executive producer of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”, retired Twitter account of @TheTweetOfGod, author, Tony nominated lyricist, Grammy-winning song writer and 13-time Emmy winner. Pair his comedic style with the direction of the amazing Joe Mantello (Blackbird, The Humans, The Last Ship, Wicked), winner of multiple Director Tonys as well as many other theatrical awards and you have a winning combination.
An Act of God is a 3 out of 4 church services attended!!!
An Act of God
222 West 45th Street
A Schubert Organization Theatre