The master of the universe summers on Broadway. At least, according to David Javerbaum, he does. This is the second summer in a row that Broadway audiences can experience Javerbaum's An Act of God. Last year, the Lord appeared as Jim Parson at Studio 54. This year, it's Sean Hayes at the Booth Theatre. But there are no miracles here: For one to register, the show would have had to become magically hilarious over the preceding year. Sadly, it's still just mildly amusing.
Based on Javerbaum's book, The Last Testament: A Memoir by God (which itself was spun off from a Twitter account: @TheTweetofGod), An Act of God takes the form of a sit-down with the creator of the universe: No, not Oprah Winfrey (although Scott Pask's set would work equally well for a reboot of her daytime chat show). This is the God of Abraham, star of Testaments Old and New, and deity to over four billion people. Assuming the form of beloved star Sean Hayes, God has come to Earth to deliver ten new commandments while reminiscing about his greatest hits (the flood, Jesus Christ, circumcision). The angels Gabriel (a quietly agreeable James Gleason) and Michael (the far more confrontational David Josefberg) offer an assist, as God takes questions from the audience like, "Do you answer prayers?" Answer: "They're all on file."
The second coming of God to Broadway is not demonstrably different than the first. While Javerbaum has penned a pliable script of topical jokes — an almighty stand-up routine that could be endlessly updated and augmented — the major set pieces of the script (Abraham, Noah, Jesus) remain. With the exception of new references to Hamilton and Donald Trump, the material is the same. That includes a bizarrely dated shout-out to The Sixth Sense that makes us wonder if God might actually be Jay Leno in disguise.
The major difference in this presentation comes in the form of Hayes, who brings an extra touch of frivolity to a play that really calls for it. The whole event feels like a Chelsea cocktail party, with God as our vain and capricious host. That's a role that Hayes mastered on Will & Grace and he proves that he's still got it here: He recounts the first seven days of the universe as if he were discussing a co-op renovation, pausing to highlight his own cleverness. Occasionally, he pulls his legs up on the couch and gestures wildly, prepping us for his next outrageous anecdote. Hayes has a natural sense of comedy that allows the script to flow along as if by improvisation. Framing his face with jazz hands, he slyly references Just Jack!, the Duplex cabaret show performed by his character on the popular NBC sitcom. The audience goes wild.
Those with cherished memories of Jack McFarland are likely to be delighted by this 80-minute kiki with the big man himself. Those looking for a boundary-pushing night of comedy may be disappointed to find a parade of stale quips and feel-good morals tailored for the Broadway audience. It's no surprise that this God is a fan of both musical theater and the gays. You'll laugh, but only in the knowledge that you're in the safest of safe spaces. Have a few beverages before the show: The more you drink, the funnier God is.
- Joe Mantello
- David Josefsberg
- Sean Hayes
- Booth Theatre
- Scott Pask
- David Javerbaum
- Donald Trump
- James Gleason
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