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A CurtainUp Review
Act of God
By Elyse Sommer
The 2015 review with Jim Parsons as God
According to this mostly genial, and at times curmudgeonly, heavenly deity, another neighborhood hit about religion, The Book of Mormon, also gets his attention. According to God Parsons The Book of Job is a lot funnier. And with Scott Pask, The Book of Mormon's award winning designer on board, Parsons' heavenly surroundings are indeed Broadway worthy, especially as spectacularly lit by Hugh Vanstone.
The pivotal idea of Javerbaum's riff is that God has grown as weary of the Ten Commandments as "Don McLean has grown weary of American Pie." And so his 90 minutes at Studio 54 are structured around an update of that iconic rule book for all human behavior. The new Ten Commandments end the uncertainty as to what God desires from humanity and will this time be given without an intermediary to the Jewish people.
To aid Parsons' God in this endeavor are two angels with giant wings, Gabriel and Michael. Gabriel's (Tim Kazurinsky) task is to introduce each commandment by reading an appropriate excerpt from the Bible. Michael (Christopher Fitzgerald) is charged with wandering through the audience to solicit questions for God to address. This audience participation business isn't as funny as it aims to be, and illustrates how star quality actors like Fitzgerald are often under-utilized.
While the emphasis throughout is on wringing maximum laughs from God's observations on various biblical subjects, there does come a point were things get a bit darker and more meaningful. A welcome touch since it further showcases Parsons' range as an actor, though it would benefit from a bit of trimming.
Between Parsons and director Joe Mantello, one of the theater's busiest and best directors who returned to his acting roots in 2011 to perform with Parsons in The Normal Heart, An Act of God is enjoyable and largely amusing light entertainment. Whether it has you laugh nonstop, or sporadically like yours truly, you'll get a big bang out of the ending. It's a knockout that had me wondering if Parsons will end up in a musical that's going to rival both The Book of Job and The Book of Mormon.