‘An Act of God’ explores wrath management at The Dio
PINCKNEY, Mich. – Pinckney is a little closer to Hell than God than usually likes to work.
That droll observation about southeast Michigan geography is among the 90 minutes of laughs – some scripted and some spontaneous – in the Dio Theatre’s summer comedy, An Act of God.
Regional theatre actor David Moan is in the title role of this show, which plays mostly like stand-up comedy, but also like a celestial talk show.
Confidentially, Moan says he isn’t portraying God. Rather, God has chosen to take the form of a regional theater actor whose name sounds like an orgasm because the deity wants to clear up some misunderstandings about the 10 Commandments. Furthermore, he wants to do some rewriting.
Why choose Moan for this tall order?
“Lo, I have endowed him with a winning, likable personality, and know with certainty that your apprehension of my depthless profundities will be aided by his offbeat charm.”
God Almighty is spot on about Moan’s appeal. He is affable, affectionate, almost cherub-like. It’s endearing the way he chats up the audience as he roams the stage in a gold-trimmed white robe and red high-topped tennis shoes, occasionally pausing to perch or lounge on a pristine white couch.
His eyes dance with delight as he recalls how fun it was to make the world and everything in it.
It’s clear that God has a surly streak, too. People who seek a close relationship with him are annoying because he says he prefers long-distance relationships. His favorite word is “amen” because it signals that the prayerful have quit asking him for dumb stuff.
“I created man in my image and I am an asshole,” he says, not at all apologetically.
God readily acknowledges his darker side – the side with “wrath management issues.” In recounting the time he required his best friend Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac to demonstrate obedience – but an angel , thankfully, intervened – God confesses, “I knew there was something seriously wrong with me.”
Two wingmen, the archangels, Michael (Dale Dobson) and Gabriel (Connor Forrester), assist God with the schtick. Gabriel, the favored, is deadpan, reading scripture from a Gutenberg bible whenever His Holiness gives him a sign.
Michael works the audience with a microphone Phil Donahue style, and God clearly doesn’t appreciate tough questions like “Why did you allow the Holocaust?” and “Do you answer prayer?” Lights flash, thunder crashes, Gabriel cowers and poor Michael loses a wing.
Despite all the jokes in this show – most of which landed – this scene of vengeance was really scary stuff.
My favorite part of the show was God’s heartfelt monologue about his son Jesus – his compassionate middle child between Zack and Cathy – who selflessly took on the sins of the world to redeem humankind.
I also mostly liked God’s riffs about the 10 Commandments (one of many lists he authored but the one that clearly found the biggest readership). It was amusing to hear which ones God considered “too good to let go” (the first and the sixth), and the back story and “liberties” he took with some others.
God’s plan to update list as 10 Commandments 2.0 with the newly arrived Steve Jobs was a creative twist on the Bible’s apple story.
But some Christians may bristle at the some of the show’s humor, especially the rewritten ninth commandment “Thou shalt not believe in me.” This is delivered in the context of God’s declaration that people are his greatest creation, and He is their worst.
This is a clever script that’s brimming with food for thought, even the uncomfortable parts.
An Act of God was written by David Javerbaum, whose writing credits include the giants of late night comedy: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, David Letterman, and James Corden.
Commenting as God on the Bible and humanity began as a series of tweets @ The TweetofGod, and then morphed into the book The Last Testament: A Memoir By God.It debuted as a stage play on Broadway in 2015 with Jim Parsons of Big Bang Theory fame in the title role.
Technical Director Matt Tomich havs done a nice job with the set. The Dio has a lot of fly space, making three levels of staging possible. The uppermost level, with its cloud painted backdrop, do appear heavenly. The slate of the 10 Commandments is the focus of the second floor, and the main stage is outfitted with a piano, couch and lectern – all in the purest white.
Twice in the performance I saw the pacing of the monologue began to lag, but you’ll still be astonished how many theological questions surface in this 90-minute production.
The show concludes with a catchy song and dance number that, basically, tells the audience that we’re on our own. We need not seek God’s advice on everything. He’s not with us when we win or apart from us when we lose. People, just get your act together.