By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
God (Marcus Stevens) comes down to Earth speak with humanity in David Javerbaum’s comedy, “An Act of God,” and all hell breaks loose.
The Creator, accompanied by two of his best buds, Angels Gabriel (John Shepard) and Michael (Tim McGeever), complete with white linen robes and feathery white wings, trek down to Terra Firma to enlighten us mere mortals. God has got a lot on his omnipotent, omniscient mind.
By the way, the Supreme Being looks like Marcus Stevens for a reason. The Almighty is using Stevens’ body as a Holy Sock Puppet, speaking his words of wisdom through the beloved Broadway actor (and Point Park graduate). You see, God thinks middle men like Moses, Muhammad et al. have mucked up his holy message. The Lord is here to set the record straight.
It’s Life, the Universe and Everything in a brisk 90 minutes (no intermission). Jehovah’s perspective is decidedly different. Papa’s got a brand new bag. The Most High might refer to Javerbaum when he wrote the show. It’s pretty out there, and it’s sure to offend the most devout of any religion, be ye Christian, Muslim or Jew.
Picture Fractured Fairy Tales of the Old and New Testament. Things do get real when God does express remorse for the life and death of his middle child, Jesus. Though, the Christ child comes off like Jan Brady in God’s version.
Javerbaum started the story with a Twitter handle called, TheTweetOfGod, and morphed those tweets into a full-fledged Broadway play.
The actors are fantastic. Stevens is effervescent as the Eternal Father. He bounces around on stage filled with spirit (Holy or otherwise). His gap-toothed smile lights up the theater. He’s a joy to watch.
Shepard is an actually dressed like a shepherd…of God (with the aforementioned heavenly wings). The actor has a commanding voice and a big presence. Though his role is small, he makes it big.
Nerd Note: His character is similar to Gwen DeMarco/Lt. Tawny Madison (Sigourney Weaver) in “Galaxy Quest,” repeating words that flash on an overhead projector.
McGeever is only performing in plays with God in the title this year. He went from City Theatre’s “Hand of God” to the Public’s “An Act of God.” Ironic, don’t you think?
McGeever’s Michael is sort of the every man angel. His character says the things we’re thinking; and voices the questions we want to ask. He performs with precision and aplomb. It would be hard to imagine any other actor in the role after seeing McGeever’s interpretation.
Director Ted Pappas keeps things moving along with sharp pace (no intermission helps the evening move along nicely).
Sound Designer Zach Moore and Lighting Designer Andrew David Ostrowski bring in thunder and lightning to the stage. Scenic Designer Michael Schweikardt’s stage is walk in the clouds with some tasteful white furnishings. It’s an absolutely heavenly combination of sight and sound.
The only drawback, and it’s a rather large one, is that “An Act of God” is more thoughtful than humorous. It’s billed as a raucous comedy, and it is, at best, mildly amusing. Not nearly as funny as “Buyer & Cellar” or even as witty as “Tru,” past Public productions (say that three times fast).
It may, however, challenge your world view. The play may either enlighten you or piss you off. You get to make the final judgement. It might not be the funniest comedy, but it is certainly a revelation, and the cast is worth the price of admission.
“An Act of God” runs through Sunday, July 2 at the O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here.