By: Iris Wiener
An Act of God is a rare one-person(ish) play that allows the director and star to redefine a piece through the choice of the lead actor. The Broadway productions of David Javerbaum’s comedy saw Jim Parsons and Sean Hayes take center stage as the Holy One, as they worked to answer many of the deepest (as well as materialistic) questions that have plagued mankind since Creation. With Academy Award and Tony Award nominee, and multiple Golden Globe winner Kathleen Turner embracing the sarcastic spirit of God in George Street Playhouse’s production, Javerbaum’s work takes on a whole new meaning- and a good one, at that.
Turner’s deep voice and flair for sarcasm serves God well as She laments on the failings of the Ten Commandments while serving up a new version to the theater’s inhabitants. Adding a new layer to the play is the simple fact that a female embodies the role. “Why a woman?” Turner asks upon taking the stage. “Have you watched the news lately?” The sentiment perfectly exemplifies the snark and light acerbity that comprises this version of God.
Turner’s only misfires occur when Javerbaum’s script delves into Biblical history. Her explanations match the tone of her jests with very little fluctuation in her storytelling; therefore, at time the show comes across as a bit flat. Director David Saint would have benefitted tremendously by giving angels Michael (Stephen DeRosa) and Gabriel (Jim Walton), more to do, instead of underutilizing the experienced actors’ proven penchants for humor. The show’s anecdotal moments of levity, such as God’s complaints about people screaming her name during sex and why masturbation is a sin, are the most memorable and fun. Michael asks God: “Why is Donald Trump allowed to roam the earth?” It would have been interesting to hear God attempt to tackle such questions; instead, She avoids them or tosses half-hearted responses. Nonetheless, Turner’s witticism is uniquely entertaining.
Saint employs many of the same tropes that made the Broadway runs of An Act of God so successful. For example, a phone rings in the audience, causing God and Her angels to take the phone and snap a selfie. Latecomers are brought into the room at a pre-designated moment, much to the actors’ “chagrin.” These moments lacked the enthusiastic surprise of the original, but were still mildly entertaining. This version of the play excels in lines specific to Turner’s career and personality. Why did God choose to inhabit the body of Turner to expel his words of wisdom? She answers with a question of Her own about a certain cult 1994 dark comedy: “Have you seen Serial Mom? It’s one of my favorite movies.”
It is no question that Javerbaum, who is the recipient of 13 Emmy Awards, a Grammy Award and three Peabody Awards for his work on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, has written a piece that mirrors and highlights the questions and objections of skeptics and believers alike. Perhaps if Saint had opted to include more jabs at our current sociopolitical climate, it would have made for a more poignant, updated commentary. Timothy R. Mackabee’s set design is simple and functioning, with little else about which to ruminate. Esther Arroyo’s costume design complements Turner’s persona; flowy white robes with gold gilding, the piece is cut and pinned to accentuate Turner’s curves and charisma.
Turner’s God says, “I am God. In me, all things are fakeable.” Though some portions of the show are lacking in originality and spunk, there is no faking the fact that George Street’s An Act of God is a distinctive experience.
Visit George Street Playhouse .org for more information about purchasing tickets. An Act of God is currently running now through December 23rd.
Follow Iris Wiener on Twitter @Iris_Wiener or visit her at www.IrisWiener.com.