At Friday’s opening night performance of “An Act of God’ the lights went down before I had a chance to read the program so it wasn’t until later that I discovered the reason why the script’s witty comedy was so razor sharp hilarious. It was written by David Javerbaum, a producer for the Late Late Show with James Cordon and 13-time Emmy-winning former head writer and exec producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. A master of biting one-liners and snarks, his expertise as a joke writer is clearly evident in this play which premiered on Broadway in 2015.
Javerbaum’s 90-minute play is adapted from his book, “The Last Testament: A Memoir By God,” which itself originated from a string of tweets. A non-stop stream of irreverent, and no doubt,for some, sacrilegious bon mots, “An Act of God” features God, in the person of popular Indy actor Greenwell, as the show’s main attraction He holds court on Phil Male’s contemporary design that looks like television set. Referencing Indianapolis, pop culture and even his Orangeness, The Almighty has descended from the heavens to present a newly updated Ten Commandments and also sarcastically admonish those who interpret the Bible to advance their own agenda. He makes the point that America is not the only country God blesses and certainly not your favorite sports team, and does so with with jokes and snarky one-liners that he delivers a mile a minute.
“An Act of God” was directed by esteemed Butler University department of theatre professor William Fisher. Besides Greenwell, the other members of the cast are archangel Michael and Michael Hosp as archangel Gabriel.
Greenwell who stars in a role that was originated by TV comedian Jim Parson of The Big Bang Theory and later played by Will & Grace’s Sean Hayes, demonstrated that he has the acting chops, and comic timing to pull off a performance that demands an expansive range. Playfully scolding a couple who disrupted the show when they arrived late, he also showed off his skill at improvisation. Plagued by a cough that required him to constantly drink water during his performance, Greenwell nevertheless managed to soldier on without missing a beat.
Hosp, played stoic archangel Gabriel, sitting impassively at a lectern. Providing quotations from a Gutenberg Bible at God’s command, he did so with authority.
Coomer, as archangel Michael who takes questions from the audience and later raises the God’s ire by challenging his concepts, turned in a performance that was right on target.
Evidence that even non-believers will be entertained and stimulated by “An Act of God” was provided by my agnostic guest who, as we entered the theater, inquired “I don’t know anything about religion so do you think I’ll get this?” By play’s end, my skeptic friend’s views regarding the presence of a higher power hadn’t changed but his appreciation for humanity and acknowledgement of man’s foibles was reinforced.
“An Act of God” continues through March 12 on the Livia & Steve Russell Stage. Tickets are $30. To purchase the, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at (317) 635-7529. Through a special partnership with the Jewish Community Center, the Phoenix will present a performance on Tuesday, March 7 at 7 p.m. The JCC is located at 6701 Hoover Road, Indy 46260. For tickets, call (317) 251-9467.