An Act of God

Sean Hayes is heavenly in this brazenly blasphemous comedy.

Sean Hayes as God in An Act of God, written by God, transcribed by David Javerbaum, and directed by Joe Mantello, at Center Theatre Group's Ahmanson Theatre.
Sean Hayes in the title role of An Act of God, written by God, transcribed by David Javerbaum, and directed by Joe Mantello, at the Ahmanson Theatre.
(© Jim Cox)

God has returned to earth and borrowed Sean Hayes' body to impart wisdom to the audience at the Ahmanson Theatre and deliver an updated 10 Commandments for the new millennium. Playwright David Javerbaum hilariously skewers humanity's assumptions about God's purpose using the popular TV comedian Hayes as a perfect vessel.

Based on Javerbaum's popular Twitter feed (@TheTweetOfGod) and his book An Act of God: Previously Published as The Last Testament: A Memoir by God, An Act of God reveals God's views on the Bible, the difference between a lie and "taking liberties" with the truth, and what that often sited passage in Leviticus really says about homosexuality. The script catapults over the line of religious piety by having God admit his own psychoses, including "wrath issues" and a level of spite, but for those who can accept different interpretations of God, the evening is a laugh riot.

Javerbaum fills the 90-minute show with many zingers to keep the audience in stitches. The role appears so tailored to Hayes, one wonders if Hayes improvised a lot or if the script was altered specifically for him. The timeliness of the jokes also reflects up-to-the-minute tinkering. The only shame is that none of the topical jokes were unexpected or likely to generate conversation afterward.

Most audiences know Hayes from his Emmy-winning portrayal of Jack McFarland on Will & Grace, and Hayes feeds off that characterization and funnels that persona into the role. His God is flippant, megalomaniacal, and prone to zig-zagging between euphoria and depression. He plops his legs under his body with glee like an excitable 10-year-old and snaps at his angels, David Josefsberg and James Gleason, when they question him. He's giddy with power, but also personable and identifiable.

Where Hayes' gifts particularly come into play are in moments of reflection that show emotional depth, as in when he exhibits both pride and solemnness when reflecting on how his son Jesus suffered greatly to wipe away mankind's sins. He looks off to the side when remembering these past decisions and even questions why he would be cruel to those he loves. These moments create striking contrast of emotion and they are almost harrowing.

Director Joe Mantello gives Hayes room to command the stage and keeps the evening moving at a brisk pace. The production design is simple and starkly white. Peter Nigrini's video design creates an awe-inspiring light show.

An eavesdropper's access to a psychoanalysis session with the Almighty, An Act Of God proves that well beyond his Will & Grace character, and buoyed by David Javerbaum's words, Sean Hayes is a comic deity.