An Act of God was required to jump-start Broadway's 2015-16 season — literally, one act of God doing standup, punctuated by an unseen drummer adding the rimshots.
The Divinity materialized May 28 in that erstwhile den of iniquity, Studio 54, to break in 90 minutes of new boffo material about revisiting and revising his Top Ten.
He took the mortal form of a major TV star, something along the surprising lines of Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory," and, having made us in the image of Himself, displayed a full warts-and-all complement of humanistic tics just like you and me.
That kind of accessibility to The Almighty doesn't come in bunches like bananas. The patter — er, play — is the first for Broadway by David Javerbaum, "The Daily Show" head writer who has 13 Emmys and is now gunning for Tonys. (Indeed, in 2008, he was Tony-nominated, Broadway-debuting as the lyricist of Cry-Baby. Here, true to form, he gives God an 11 o'clock number in which to cap His new commandments.)
Perched on a couch resolutely center stage, Parsons preaches in bada boom one-liners, duly noting late-comers and, God help you, cell phones. Flanking Him on both sides of the stage are archangels: Gabriel, without a horn to blow (Tim Kazurinsky), reads the new, improved commandments; Michael (Christopher Fitzgerald) takes questions from the audience and sometimes puts up a fuss himself with The Boss.
Javerbaum tested his metaphysical musings first as a book and then whittled that down to a monster monologue, interrupted only by an occasional archangel peep.
Parsons may not be your idea of God, but that just shows how truly crafty God's camouflaging is — a mortal form's a mortal form, and any number can play — plus, he has the added advantage of years of memorizing scripts for lightning-fast TV shoots.
"Jim was one of the first people who came to our notice," Javerbaum recalled. "We heard he was interested in doing some theatre for the summer so we got him the script, and he flew out to Chicago and read it with the director, Joe Mantello, to see if he wanted to do it. Thank God, he did. It's lots to memorize, but he has managed amazingly well. He can memorize so quickly — and adapt. When there are script changes, he can just put them in through his mental Rolodex almost immediately."
The actor admitted his day job prepared him well for a Broadway summer: "It was an on-and-off process for about two months, doing the show AND memorizing this. In a way, that was good because I let things marinate for a while longer than I would ordinarily. If memorization is easier for me now, it's because I don't dread doing it. My hope is it's one of those things that help ward off Alzheimer's." Heaven only knows, but there was little doubt among first-nighters that he got away with his God con. Graciously, he thanked the source: "I really give most of the credit for that to David. He wrote something where God speaks so naturalistically, so — I don't want to say folksy, but like the pretense of what God would do to try to talk to the people if He were to come down. He just nails it in a way that really does make it very easy, and that goes back to the memorization thing. You have to get the words down because, as soon as you string those strange sentences together, you realize the conversational sense they're making. They're a beautiful flow to what he's done."
A Houston Lutheran, Parsons spent a childhood preparing for this role, having paid attention in Sunday School more than he realized. "Isn't it like ringing a bell over and over? 'Oh, yeah — THAT story!' If you were taken to church a lot in your youth, it was a helluvah education that you got, even if you didn't know you were getting it."
Four bios deep into Playbill's "Who's Who in the Cast" is this: "GOD (Creator) is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere. His novels include The Old Testament, The New Testament and The Koran, which have sold an impressive five billion copies, with the first two in particular coming to be collectively regarded as something of a bible in their field. An Act of God is His first work written directly for the stage, although His 1827 comic romp The Book of Mormon was recently adapted into a successful Broadway musical. God lives in heaven with His wife, Ruth, and their children, Zach, Jesus and Kathy. You can follow Him at your local church, synagogue or mosque, or @TheTweetOfGod."
Javerbaum claimed that this information was left at his door in Charlton Heston-sized tablet-form. "I only touched up the punctuation and spelling," he said.