“Listen, it can get lonely up here at the top,” God informs the audience in the opening minutes of Charles Shafer’s breezily amusing one-man show, which seeks, according to the program notes, to explore “the impact of religion on society,” but mostly just parodies the wrathful, vengeful and capricious deity of the Bible.
In Sacred & Scared Get the Same Score in Scrabble, Schafer portrays himself, the Lord, and four other characters – Jesus, a young Christian woman named Carla, a rabbi, and a fellow at a bar named Joe – as they seek to formulate their religious identities and determine their place in the world. None of the earth-bound characters, alas, seems to feel much pity for God’s lamentable loneliness. After all, that damnable deity lies at the root of much of their troubles, so He has no business complaining about His own.
But complain He does, and Schafer, who teaches law at the University of Baltimore and performs in Capital Improv Group, invites the audience to laugh, gently and without derision, at His neuroses. Indeed, Shafer’s God hardly resembles the sadistically impulsive deity of Shalom Auslander or the sexually repressive tyrant popularized by Philip Roth. Rather, Shafer’s all-powerful being, dressed in a gangster’s suit with dark glasses, approximates a mischievous, avuncular and fundamentally well-meaning guardian whose mysterious, ostensibly pathological behavior belies a noble and magnanimous objective.
Of course, Shafer’s various characters, whom he portrays with nuance, heart and wit, fail to grasp God’s cryptic intentions, but they largely view him as essentially benevolent despite the hardships He throws their way. The show thus views religion not as inherently positive or inherently negative, but as a phenomenon that should, at the very least, induce a bit less anxiety than we humans tend to generate over it.
God, in other words, for all His many faults, harbors a robust sense of humor, and we, as his diminutive subjects, can afford to laugh about it from time to time.
For more information about the show, and to purchase tickets, go to our Fringe Preview.